The Night Sky this June

Each month I will highlight a few things for you to spot in the night sky. These will be visible with the naked eye.

Planets

Many of you will have seen Venus sparkling away in the evening sky over the past couple of months. It has been a spectacular sight. Now it is sinking fast and will be too close to the Sun and therefore unsafe to observe. However, don’t worry! Venus will quickly emerge as a morning object! By the 9th June it will be possible to spot low above the northeast horizon shortly before sunrise. Venus appears phased- like the Moon – and during early June it will be a thin crescent. Then on the 19th June (a date for your diary!), it will occult with a thin crescent Moon. At 08:37 on the morning of the 19th June Venus will appear to go behind the Moon and then reappear on the other side at 9:42. This will be tough to see and you must not use optical equipment given the Sun is not far away! It is best to just enjoy the view of them being close together earlier in the morning.

Venus close to the Moon on the morning of the 19th. (Courtesy of Stellarium)

Some of you may have spotted Mercury during May as it sunk in the early evening sky- a rare treat. The planet will still be visible in June shortly after sunset (remember never to look directly at the sun and especially never use optical equipment near the Sun). You will need to observe the planet during the first half of the month as it begins to sink earlier each night and by mid-month will have gone from view.

Mercury low in the sky early June as the sun sets. (Courtesy of Stellarium)

Mars is brightening throughout the month and can be seen by early risers in the dawn twilight. Jupiter and Saturn shine brightly as early morning objects- a beautiful sight too. Another date for the diary – 9th June, Saturn and Jupiter will be close together and near an 87% lit waning gibbous Moon. The planets can be enjoyed this month despite the short hours of darkness!

You may want to learn some of the stars in the sky and here are three prominent bright stars which are easy to spot during June.

The three bright stars Arcturus, Spica and Antares in the southern night sky in June. (Courtesy of Stellarium)

Here are some facts about these bright objects:

Both Antares and Arcturus appear red so that should help you spot them both. Antares is huge in comparison with the Sun and much brighter. Here are the relative sizes of the stars Antares and Arcturus compared to the Sun.

Relative sizes of the stars

Spica, like many stars we see in the night sky is a double star- ie it has a companion. Did you know that more than half the stars you see are part of a system of two or more stars? In this case they rotate around a common centre. In many cases a good telescope can resolve the two stars but in this case they are so close together, ie. Only about 11 million miles, so they are impossible to resolve.

 

Enjoy the night sky!