Get ready to enjoy summer stargazing in June! With weather warming up, June is a great time of year to enjoy relaxing evenings under starry skies with your telescope or astronomy binoculars.
Here are a few of Orion's top picks for June stargazing:
- Saturn's Best and Brightest - Ringed planet Saturn reaches opposition on June 3rd at 6:00 UT, meaning it will be directly opposite the Sun in the sky as seen from Earth. Since Saturn will rise at sunset and set at sunrise, it's the best night of the year to observe the distant planet. The weeks following opposition will also provide great opportunities to see Saturn in a telescope. Use any telescope to see Saturn and its spectacular rings, as well as brighter moons like 8th-magnitude Titan. Larger telescopes and clear, dark skies will help you see the thin gap between Saturn's rings, which is called the Cassini Division.
- See the Red Planet - While Earth's next-door neighbor planet Mars reached opposition in late May, the red planet continues to be in a great viewing position in June. Look for Mars nestled between constellations Scorpius and Libra. Larger telescopes and good seeing conditions will help you see Mars in detail, and using Color Planetary Filters and the Orion Mars Observation Eyepiece Filter will enhance contrast of Martian features like polar caps and darker surface markings.
- June is Star Party Time - Take advantage of the New Moon on June 4th and Saturn's great position in the night sky and plan a summertime star party! Not only will the dark skies of the moonless night provide great opportunities to see fainter objects more clearly, but the warm June weather will make it easy to enjoy starry sights all night long with friends and family.
- Swirling Spirals - Around 10pm in mid-June, two glorious, face-on spiral galaxies M51 and M101 will both be in a great position for viewing and imaging. While you can see these great galaxies with a humble 60mm refractor, bigger telescopes will reveal finer details. Use a 10" or larger reflector under dark skies to see the delicate spiral arms of M51.
- Gems of the Summer Triangle - By 10pm in mid-northern latitudes, the Summer Triangle, comprising beacon stars Vega (in Lyra), Deneb (in Cygnus), and Altair (in Aquila), will be fully visible above the horizon. Several celestial gems lie within its confines, including the Ring Nebula (M57), the Dumbbell Nebula (M27), open star cluster M29, and the visually challenging Crescent Nebula (NGC 6888). To catch a glimpse of the elusive Crescent, you'll almost certainly need an Orion Oxygen-III Filter in a larger telescope.
- Summer is Globular Season! - Globular star clusters are densely packed balls of stars that are concentrated towards the center of the Milky Way. June skies offer some of the finest globular cluster viewing opportunities. You can catch globular clusters in 50mm or larger binoculars, but a 6" or larger telescope at moderate to high power offers the best chances to resolve individual stars. In the constellation Hercules, look for M92 and the "Great Cluster" M13. In Scorpio, look for M4 and M80. The constellation Ophiuchus is home to six globulars - M10, M12, M14, M107, M9, and M19. Can you spot them all?
- The Virgo Cluster - A treasure trove of galaxies can be explored if you point your 6" or larger telescope towards the Virgo Galaxy Cluster. Aim your telescope at galaxy M87 in the constellation Virgo and start scanning the surrounding night sky. How many galaxies can you see?
- Summer Sky Challenge - Discovered in 1825 by the German astronomer Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve, NGC 6572 is bright enough to be seen in a 60mm refractor telescope; but it is very, very small! At only 8 arc seconds in size, it takes a lot of magnification to distinguish this from a star. The easiest way to find it is to look in the target area for a green star. NGC 6572 is one of the most intensely colored objects in the night sky. Some say this is green, some say it is blue; what do you think?
By ESA/Hubble & NASA - http://www.spacetelescope.org/images/potw1034a/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12308480
All objects described above can easily be seen with the suggested equipment from a dark sky site, a viewing location some distance away from city lights where light pollution and when bright moonlight does not overpower the stars.