June promises to be a real treat for stargazers, as many celestial displays are set to unfold by the end of the month. Planet sightings are aplenty, as June’s sky will feature spectacular views of Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.
The video below, released yesterday by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, provides a few guidelines on how and when to spot these major planets shining brightly in the sky in June.
At the same time, the moon also has a busy schedule this month. Sky watchers will be able to witness Earth’s natural satellite disappear into a “New Moon” on June 13 and later bloom into a “Strawberry Moon” on June 28.
But perhaps the rarest spectacle of all will be put on by Vesta, the second largest body in the Asteroid Belt, which will come so close to our planet later in June that it will be visible to the naked eye.
“I hope this month’s evening weather will lure you outside for night sky viewing,” JPL’s Jane Houston Jones says in the video, enticing everyone to take a stroll in the cool night air and take in the stunning astronomical events that June has to offer.
When to check it out: June 6, 10, 16
Venus will reign supreme in the night sky just after sunset, Sky & Telescope reports. The second planet from the sun reaches its highest sunset altitude for the year on June 6 and will be visible this month for more than two hours after nightfall sets in.
The planet can be spotted joining the twin stars of the Gemini constellation on June 10, when Venus will align with Castor and Pollux to form a bright line in the sky, notes National Geographic.
About a week later, on June 16, Venus and the moon will come together in the night sky, resting about eight degrees from one another. Their alignment is set to showcase a special treat for stargazers armed with binoculars: the beautiful Beehive star cluster, shining from 570 light-years away, will be visible right between Venus and the moon.
When to check it out: June 19
The best show in town in undoubtedly Vesta. The 326-mile-wide asteroid, second only to Ceres in the Asteroid Belt, will be reaching opposition on June 19, which means that Vesta and the sun will be on opposite sides of Earth.
The event will bring it about 106 million miles from our planet on this particular night, when Vesta will make its biggest and brightest appearance of 2018. This is the closest that the asteroid has been to Earth in at least 20 years, offering sky watchers the opportunity to witness Vesta with the naked eye.
When to check it out: June 23
According to Jones, June has in store for us splendid views of Jupiter, which will dominate the sky throughout the month. The best time to point your telescope at Jupiter is around 10:30 p.m. in early June and soon after sunset toward the end of the month.
While the solar system’s largest planet will be visible to the naked eye as well, looking at Jupiter through a telescope can grant you spectacular views of the four Galilean moons and of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot.
When to check it out: June 27
Just like Vesta, Saturn will also be at its best in June, appearing bigger and brighter than it will be for the rest of the year. The gas giant reaches opposition on June 27 and will be treating us with glorious views of its rings, tilted this month at almost 26 degrees toward our planet. The best time to catch a glimpse of Saturn will be just after midnight.
When to check it out: June 28
Two weeks after the “New Moon” on June 13, when the moon can be seen disappearing from the sky at around 19:44 UTC, stargazers will be able to feast their eyes on the “Strawberry Moon,” or the full moon of June.
The 2018 “Strawberry Moon” rises on June 28 at around 04:53 UTC, states the Mirror. According to Space.com, the “Strawberry Moon” has earned its moniker because it coincides with the peak of the strawberry season.
When to check it out: all throughout June
Sky watchers can spot the Red Planet all month long, starting around midnight. However, the best views of Mars will come in the early morning hours.
Mars is headed toward opposition on July 27, notes EarthSky. This means the planet will grow dramatically in brightness and size in June. Next month, Mars will reach its closest approach to Earth, coming closer to our planet than it’s been since 2003.
Meanwhile, night owls can see Mars come close to the moon on June 3, when the planet will snuggle just underneath the waning gibbous moon, forming a pair with Earth’s satellite.