BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Three bright planets – Saturn, Jupiter and Venus – will dominate the sky during the warm nights of June.
Saturn will reach opposition on June 14, when it will rise around sunset and shine almost all night. It will be closest to us for the year and therefore at its largest and brightest in telescopes. Saturn will reach its highest point in the south around midnight. That is when a telescope will give the best view of its rings tilted 27 degrees to our line of sight, nearly as open as we can ever see them.
Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, can be seen with any telescope. It will pass north of the planet on June 8 and 24 and south of it on June 16.
Jupiter will appear high in the south after sunset, far brighter than the background stars of the constellation Virgo the Maiden. Observe the huge planet with a telescope as soon after dark as you can, before it drops low in the west. It will set around 3 a.m. local time at the start of the month and two hours earlier by month’s end.
Venus will rise two hours before the sun during June and be more than 10 degrees above the horizon at dawn.
Mars will disappear into the sunset in the west-northwest at the beginning of June. It won’t be visible again until September.
Mercury will be out of sight all month in the solar glare. It will come into view low in the evening sky in July.
The sun will reach the June solstice at 12:24 a.m. EDT (16:24 Universal Time) June 21, marking the start of summer in the Northern Hemisphere and winter in the Southern Hemisphere. For the next six months in the Northern Hemisphere, the days will be getting shorter.
The word “solstice” is derived from two Latin words that mean “the sun stands still.” This is because the summer sun climbs to a higher point in the southern sky each day until the solstice. On the day of the solstice it appears to arrive at about the same maximum height above the horizon as the day before, and each day afterward its maximum point is lower, dropping back toward its lowest point at the December solstice. In this sense, the sun “stands still” at the peak of its journey across the summer sky before it starts downward again toward the southern horizon.
The moon will be at first quarter on June 1, full on June 9, at third quarter on June 17, new on June 23 and at first quarter again on June 30.