The June night sky
This is the mid point of the year and June brings our summer solstice on the 21st of this month.
On the 10th day of this month there is the annual solar eclipse, when a ring of the sun’s surface is visible around the Moon’s silhouette. It is a full eclipse in Northern Canada, the North Pole and Eastern Siberia. From Yorkshire the Sun is 26% obscured at 11.15am.
This time of year the night sky is never quite getting dark. 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.
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.
The innermost planet will be lost in the suns glare this month
Brilliant Venus dominates the evening sky after sunset. At magnitude –3.9, it is brighter than anything in the night sky, except the Moon. Falling below the horizon around 11pm. On 11th June just after sunset, look to the lower right of brilliant Venus to spot the narrowest crescent Moon. The Evening star passes to the left of the twin stars Castor and Pollux on the 22nd.
Venus is inexorably heading towards Mars, to its upper left. The Red planet is almost 200 times fainter, at magnitude +1.8. Mars starts the month near the twin stars Castor and Pollux. As the month progresses it moves from Gemini into the constellation of Cancer. On 23rd June Mars will be right in front of M44 the Beehive star cluster. Though the Red planet is low in the evening twilight, this will be a great sight in binoculars or a low power telescope.
There will be a pair of giant planets in the south eastern sky before dawn. Jupiter comes above the horizon about 0.30am with a glorious magnitude of
Fainter than Jupiter at magnitude +0.5, Saturn is located in the constellation of Capricornus. Just to the right of Jupiter, and rises above the horizon around midnight.
Uranus will be to close to the sun for observation this month.
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 1.30am and can be found on the borders of Aquarius and Pisces.
This distant planet can be found in the constellation of Sagittarius. Rising at 11.20pm. 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.
The largest object in the asteroid belt can be located in the constellation of Cetus this month. Rising above the horizon about 3.30am, shinning at magnitude +9.2.
Phases of the Moon for June:-
Last Quarter 2nd
New Moon 10th
First Quarter 18th
Full Moon 24th