Some months may not seem particularly exciting for stargazing when you first glance, and then you dig into the astronomical events to realize how much is actually going on.
June 2023 is one of those months; the major astronomical events in the June night sky are really just a series of planet-gazing opportunities – not that there’s anything wrong with that! Viewing the planets in our solar system is equally impressive, especially if you have a small telescope or good astronomical binoculars.
In addition to all this, the Milky Way dominates the June night sky in the northern hemisphere, and it’s easier to see than you realize. So grab your binoculars or telescope, a blanket, and head out to see the wonders of the June night sky!
This post was originally published in June 2018, and is updated annually – most recently in May 2023.
June 5 – Mercury at its Morning Peak
June kicks off with a small but mighty planet-viewing opportunity: Mercury will reach its morning peak on June 5th and reach a height of 10° in the eastern sky.
I was fortunate to spot Mercury for the first time recently, pictured above with a crescent moon. In June, however, the Moon will be nearly full on the mornings of Mercury’s peak, and won’t provide any interference.
June 9 – Close Approach of the Moon & Saturn
In June, Saturn is the first planet to “meet” the Moon in the night sky. In the evening of June 9th, you can spot the Moon and Saturn in the same part of the sky, appearing 2°42′ apart at their closest in the constellation of Aquarius.
This will be too far apart to view with a telescope or binoculars, but you’ll be able to easily hop from the 54% illuminated waning gibbous Moon to Saturn.
June 14 – Close Approach of the Moon & Jupiter
Bright Jupiter is the next planet to have a close visual approach with the Moon in June; overnight on June 14th-15th, you can see the two near one another in the sky and passing 1°22′ apart at their closest, and appearing in the constellation of Aires. The Moon will be in a more favorable waning crescent phase and just 12% illuminated.
June 21 – June Solstice
You already know what it is: June 21st marks the longest day of the year above the equator in the northern hemisphere, also called the “summer solstice.” (Conversely, it’s the shortest day of the year in the southern hemisphere or the “winter solstice.”)
The solstice is an important astronomical day, as it marks the shift in seasons and another step in our celestial dance around the sun. For millennia, cultures have celebrated the June solstice in a number of ways – you can learn about popular summer solstice celebrations if you’re curious to learn more, or attend one of these celebrations yourself someday.
June 21 – Close Approach of the Moon & Venus
As the Moon has been moving through the ecliptic and the planets are all so beautifully arranged in the sky, it’s no surprise that the Moon has been having conjunctions with each planet in turn.
Next up, the Moon appears close to bright Venus, appearing at their closest overnight from June 21st to 22nd. The two will appear just 3°31′ apart, and the waxing crescent moon (just 17% illuminated) will make for a picturesque sight.
June 22 – Close Approach of the Moon & Mars
Last but certainly not least in the planetary march of June’s “Strawberry” moon, our neighbor Mars will appear close in the sky with the Moon, in the pre-dawn hours of June 22nd. The telltale dusty orange dot of Mars and the waxing crescent Moon will be 3°34′ apart in the sky, near the constellation of Leo and the bright star of Regulus therein.
June 27 – Peak of the June Bootids Meteor Shower
Most meteor hunters skip the June Bootids each year, because their typical Zenith Hourly Rate (ZHR) is 1-2 per hour on an average year.
But don’t let that discourage you if you’re out on the night of peak activity on June 27th; some years this unpredictable meteor shower has a ‘burst’ of up to 100 meteors per hour. Nobody’s certain if that might happen in 2022 or not; the last burst year was in 1998.
June Bootids are also known for being extremely ‘long’ meteors, streaking slowly across a large portion of the sky due to the angle at which these meteors enter the earth’s atmosphere. So even if you only see one or two this year, they’ll likely be an impressive sight!
Deep Space Objects to View in June
While most of the events I’ve mentioned so far can be seen with the un-aided eye, I wanted to add a new section this month with all of the deep space objects you can see. You’ll need binoculars or a telescope to see these, but it’s well worth setting up to gaze at the deeper wonders of the universe.
- On June 2nd, Mars will make a close approach with Messier 44, also called the Beehive Cluster. Look for them in the constellation of Cancer.
- That same night, The Great Globular Cluster in Hercules will be well-placed for viewing; it will appear at its highest in the sky around midnight local time.
- The following night, June 3rd, the globular cluster Messier 12 will be high in the sky in Ophiuchus.
- A few nights later on June 6th, the globular cluster Messier 10, also in Ophichus, will be well-placed too.
- Actually, everything in Ophichus will be well-placed, as another globular cluster, Messier 62 reaches its best-viewing opportunity on June 7th.
- Similarly, Hercules is high in the sky, as Messier 92 – yes, another globular cluster – will be best to spot on June 11th.
- If you missed M44 on the 2nd, look for it having a close approach with Venus on June 13th.
- Bees and butterflies – oh my! Messier 6, also called the the Butterfly Cluster, will be high in the sky on June 17th.
- The Ptolemy Cluster, or Messier 7, will next be easiest to spot, in Scorpius and high in the sky on June 20th.
- For something other than a star cluster, look for the Lagoon Nebula (Messier 8) in Sagittarius and high in the sky on June 23rd.
As you can see, there are plenty of deep space objects to see this month in addition to other astronomical events; grab your telescope and get out there! Have questions about night sky events this June? Let us know in the comments.