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 2022 is one of those months. After a sleepy start (there’s very little to see in the first half of the month), the second half of June is jam packed with interesting astronomical events.
From asteroids and occultations to the “grand alignment” of the visual planets and the many lunar conjunctions that accompany it – June has a lot going on! 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.
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 2022.
Featured photo credit: Oliver Henze via Flickr
June 6 – Asteroid 29 Amphitrite at Opposition
The first half of June is admittedly very quite from an astronomical perspective; there’s just one event worth seeing – and you’ll need a telescope or binoculars to really enjoy it.
On the night of June 6th, asteroid 29 Amphitrite will be at opposition and well-lit by the Sun on the Earth’s opposing side. This large asteroid is the fifth largest in the main asteroid belt, and stretches some 125 miles (200km) in diameter. To spot this solar system object, use a star-finder app and look in the constellation Scorpius.
June 18 – Conjunction of the Moon & Saturn
After their close approach – the Great Conjunction 18 months ago – Saturn and Jupiter have been moving visually further apart in the sky. This means that their monthly conjunctions/close approaches with the Moon have been moving further apart in time too. When they used to occur in close succession, they now occur several nights apart.
In June, Saturn is the first planet to “meet” the Moon in the night sky. On the morning of June 18th, you can spot the Moon and Saturn in the same part of the sky, appearing 4°16′ apart at their closest. This will be too far apart to view with a telescope or binoculars, but you’ll be able to easily hop from the 72% illuminated waning gibbous Moon to Saturn.
June 21 – Conjunction of the Moon & Jupiter
Bright Jupiter is the next planet to have a close visual approach with the Moon in June; in the pre-dawn hours of June 21st, you can see the two near one another in the sky and passing 2°44′ apart at their closest. The Moon will be in a more favorable waning crescent phase than it was when Saturn was nearby, so this is a better morning for planet-gazing if your skies are clear.
If you’re already rising early to see Jupiter and the Moon on the 21st, I recommend staying out to watch the sunrise on the longest* day of the year – the June Solstice. More on that below. (*Or shortest, if you call the southern hemisphere home!)
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 22 – Conjunction/Lunar Occultation of the Moon & Mars
2022 is a great year for lunar occultations, thanks to the alignment of the Moon and Uranus on the ecliptic – but there’s more on that below. In addition to those special occultations, the Moon also crosses paths with other planets, including Mars. These are unique astronomical events because you have the chance to watch the Moon pass in front of a planet; astrophotographers typically love the opportunity to try and capture these phenomena. Unfortunately, this particular one will only be visible to those who happen to find themselves in the far south Pacific near Antarctica, according to In-The-Sky.org.
The rest of the world will have the chance to see a conjunction between the Moon and Mars, as they’ll appear 0°56′ from one another at their closest; for those in North America, look for the pair in the dawn sky.
June 22 – Grand Alignment of the Visible Planets
While planetary alignment is virtually impossible, sometimes the planets do appear to align and give us a beautiful show. One such opportunity for this will occur on the morning of June 22nd; on this morning the five visible planets – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn – will all appear “in a row” and in the same order that they are from the sun.
Some astronomers and media are calling this the “Grand Alignment” of 2022 (who doesn’t love a catchy title!) and it’s certainly a great morning to get up before the sun and try to spot all five visible planets in one go. I’ll be up with my camera to see if I can catch them all!
June 23 – Mercury at its Morning Peak
As part of the “grand alignment” of planets that is occurring in June, Mercury needs to get into position – that is, it needs to appear in the morning sky with the other visible planets of Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.
While it won’t be at its peak (maximum degrees of distance from the horizon) for the alignment, it will be close – and will reach its morning peak on the morning of June 23rd. This makes either the 22nd or 23rd a great time to try and see Mercury, since it will be about 12° above the horizon.
June 24 – Conjunction/Lunar Occultation of the Moon & Uranus
As already mentioned, 2022 is a great year for Lunar Occultations – and this one is one that some readers might actually get to see! For those in northwest Australia or southern Indonesia, look to the sky on the night of June 24th; you’ll need a telescope to spot distant Uranus as it passes behind the waning crescent Moon.
For the rest of us not in that part of the world, we can enjoy a close visual approach between Uranus and the Moon. As mentioned, you’ll need a telescope but it will be well worth it: the two solar system objects will appear just 2.8 arcminutes (0.04°) apart – that’s closer than the Great Conjunction was in 2020!
June 26 – Conjunction 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. Last, but certainly not least, the Moon meets Venus on the morning of June 26th. The two will appear just 2°41′ apart, and Mercury will also be close at hand in the pre-dawn sky.
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, the Hercules Globular Cluster (M13) will be at its best position for viewing around midnight local time.
- On June 3rd, globular cluster M12 will be well-placed for viewing, high in the sky in the constellation Ophiuchus.
- Next, globular cluster M10 will be well-placed for viewing in Ophiuchus on June 6th.
- Globular cluster M62, also in Ophiuchus, will be in its best position for viewing on the night of June 7th.
- On June 11th, globular cluster M92 in Hercules will be well-placed for viewing.
- A few nights later on June 16th, globular cluster NGC 6388 will be at its best position for viewing in the constellation Scorpius.
- The butterfly open star cluster, M6, will be well-placed for viewing on June 17th, also in Scorpius.
- For more southern viewers, globular cluster NGC 6397 will also be easily viewed on the night of June 17th.
- On the night of June 20th, the Ptolemy cluster M7 will be at its highest point in the sky and ideally placed for viewing in the constellation Scorpius.
- See two in one on the night of June 23rd: NGC 6530 and M8 (the Lagoon Nebula) will be well-placed for viewing in Sagittarius.
- In a different part of the sky, look for the globular cluster NGC 6541 at its highest point on the night of June 24th in the constellation Corona Australis.
- For one last option, the open star cluster NGC 6633 in Ophiuchus will be well-placed for viewing around midnight local time.
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.