Some months may not seem particularly exciting for stargazing when you first glance – like this month – and then you dig into the astronomical events to realize how much is actually going on. This is one of those months: the June night sky is full of interesting sights, and some of the June days are too!
From planetary viewing opportunities and a small meteor shower to a solar eclipse that will be at least partially visible across a large stretch of the northern hemisphere – 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 night sky in June.
Did you know? These are some of the best stargazing events this month – but there are many other interesting events and good nights for stargazing all year long.
Learn more and get your copy of The Night Sky in 2021: When to Go Stargazing All Year Long for just $4.66 (on sale from $7.99).
June 1 – Close Approach of the Moon & Jupiter
June starts off with the second half of the planetary conjunction pair we’ve been experiencing for the past few years (Jupiter and Saturn). These two gas giants were moving toward one another and reached their closest visual point in the sky last December; they’re now sliding apart from one another – but both still have close visual approaches with the Moon each month.
On the morning of June 1st (through dawn), you can look for Jupiter and the Moon to appear close together. They’ll be roughly 4°37′ apart, which is about the height of your fist when your arm is held fully extended. A waning gibbous moon will make it easy to spot the pair in the constellation Aquarius.
June 4 – Asteroid 63 Ausonia at Opposition
On June 4th, asteroid 63 Ausonia will be at opposition. For those not familiar with the term, it means that the asteroid will be positioned opposite of the sun from our earthly perspective. The sun will better illuminate 63 Ausonia than at other times, making it easier to spot with a telescope. This asteroid is a stony Vestian asteroid that will be visible in the constellation Scorpius, and will reach its highest point in the sky around midnight local time (regardless of your location).
June 10 – Annular Solar Eclipse
June’s big astronomical event is happening during the day! On June 10th, parts of the world will be treated to an annular solar eclipse. Often called a “Ring of Fire” of eclipse, the moon will pass between the earth and sun and create a spectacular fiery-looking sight in the sky – one that requires eye protection throughout the whole experience if you’re trying to view it.
The path of annularity will pass across parts of northern Canada (Ontario and Nunuvut), Greenland, and Siberia; a large portion of the upper northern hemisphere will be able to see the partial eclipse since it will be hard to travel for annularity this year. (This map is a great way to see where the annular/partial eclipse will be visible.)
June 12 – Conjunction of the Moon & Venus
After its conjunction and close visual approach with Mercury last month, Venus joins the ranks of other planets and makes a close approach with the Moon this month instead. After sunset on the night of June 12th, you can spot bright Venus and the sliver of a crescent moon appearing just 1°28′ apart.
The moon will be exceptionally young – just two days old and 4% illuminated. So this is a fabulous opportunity to pull out your telescope, take a look at Venus and study the Moon’s dramatic terminator line.
June 13 – Conjunction of the Moon & Mars
To spot another planet this month, keep your eyes peeled on the night of June 13th. This night, the Moon and Mars will make a close approach, passing within 2°48′ of each other in the twilight window (depending on your latitude).
The moon will be a waning crescent moon and only 13% illuminated this night. This is dramatically better than some of the other planetary conjunctions this month, and makes this one of the best nights of the month to get out and go stargazing.
June 20 – June Solstice
You already know what it is: June 20th 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!
June 27 – Peak of the June Bootid 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 2021 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!
June 27 – Conjunction of the Moon & Saturn
After their close approach – the Great Conjunction back in December – 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.
Saturn is the first to have its close approach with the Moon. In the morning hours of June 27th, the Moon and Saturn will appear close at just 4°01′ apart. This is nowhere near as close as the Great Conjunction, but it’s a good opportunity to use the waning gibbous Moon to spot Saturn.
June 28 – Conjunction of the Moon & Jupiter
The next morning, Jupiter gets its turn and has a close approach with the Moon. They’ll appear 4°27′ apart in the dawn sky– again, too far for the view of a telescope or pair of binoculars. The Moon will be slightly more favorable and a day closer to its New phase, but still brightly illuminated to guide you.
Take advantage of the summer season in the northern hemisphere! There some beautiful wonders and objects are waiting for you. Have questions about night sky events this June? Let us know in the comments.
Featured photo credit: Oliver Henze via Flickr