This is the mid point of the year and the night sky is never quite getting dark, especially in Yorkshire. It’s not the greatest month for spotting faint stars. Only the brightest stars can be seen. You can take advantage of the soft, warm weather to acquaint yourself with the summer constellations of Hercules, Scorpius, Lyra, Cygnus and Aquila.
Look for the bright stars like Vega in Lyra, which is high in the eastern sky, as is the Summer Triangle it forms with Altair in Aquila and Deneb in Cygnus returns to prominence.
June brings our summer solstice on the 2oth of this month.
There are two very nice objects to spot with binoculars in the eastern sky well after dark this month. Two thirds of the way up the right hand side of the 4 stars that make up the “keystone” in the constellation Hercules is M13, the best globular cluster visible in the northern sky.
Just to the left of the bright star Vega in Lyra is the multiple star system Epsilon Lyrae often called the double-double. With binoculars a binary star is seen but, when observed with a telescope, each of these two stars is revealed to be a double star – hence the name!
The Sun follows a shallow arc below our North horizon overnight, the geometry allowing views of noctilucent clouds, whose silvery-blue tracery may gleam low down between the northwest after nightfall and the northeast before dawn. Noctilucent clouds are formed by ice crystals coalescing around dust particles. They float near 82km in altitude where they reflect sunlight after our normal clouds are in darkness.
Mercury skulks down on the north western horizon, setting at 11pm. It is at its greatest elongation from the Sun on 4th June. At the start of the month Mercury shines at magnitude +0.3 after which it quickly fades and sinks into the twilight glow by the middle of the month.
Venus roars into our dawn skies mid month, as a stunning Morning Star. Rising in the north east and blazing at magnitude –4.3. The narrowest crescent Moon lies to the right of Venus on the morning of 19th of the month. Using binoculars if you look low on the horizon around 4.30am on that date, the Moon occults Venus later in the morning. By the end of June, Venus is rising as early as 3am.
The red planet Mars, rises above the horizon around 1.30am, and brightens noticeably during this month as the Earth speeds towards it, increasing from magnitude 0.0 to –0.5 as it moves from the constellation of Aquarius and into Pisces.
Jupiter is now rising in the south east around 11pm, at a magnitude -2.6, in the constellation of Sagittarius. With binoculars or a small telescope, you can spot its four largest moons.
Saturn is livening up the southern constellation of Capricornus. Rising after Jupiter, around 11.30pm. Shinning at magnitude +0.3.
The gas giant Uranus emerges in the morning sky, rising about 2.30am. It can be located in the constellation of Pisces, shinning at magnitude +5.9.
Keen observers with a telescope can now see Neptune in the early morning skies. With a dim magnitude of +7.9, this distant planet is rising around 1am and can be found in the constellation of Aquarius. On the mornings of 13th and 14th June Neptune will be just 1.5 degrees above Mars.
Pluto can be found in the constellation of Sagittarius. Rising just after 11pm. Although it will always be low down and only visible in a ten-inch or larger telescope in a truly dark sky for a short period of time. At magnitude +14.3.
Ceres the largest object in the asteroid belt can be located in the constellation of Aquarius this month. Rising above the horizon about 2am, shinning at magnitude +8.8.
Phases of the Moon for June:-
Full Moon – 5th
Last Quarter – 13th
New Moon – 21st
First Quarter – 28th