Get outside for summer stargazing in June! With weather warming up, June is a great time 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-Moon Conjunction On June 1st and again on June 29th, Saturn and its beautiful rings will appear within 2 degrees of the Moon in the night sky.
- Close Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter June starts with the two brightest planets 20 degrees apart, but by month's end they close in to just 0.3 degrees of each other, and starting on the 27th spend eight straight evenings less than 2 degrees apart. On the 30th both planets will fit into the field of view of a telescope at low power - now that's rare! Look low in the western sky just after sunset to see them. The Venus-Jupiter pairing gets even prettier on June 19th and 20th, when the crescent Moon wanders in, creating a memorable - and photogenic - trio.
- Ringed Saturn The ringed planet will be an attractive target for stargazers throughout all of June. Use an eyepiece that will yield at least 40x in your telescope to catch views of Saturn's beautiful rings and brighter orbiting moons. The brightest moon, 8th-magnitude Titan, is visible in any size telescope. Larger telescopes and clear, dark skies will help you see a thin gap between Saturn's rings, which is called the Cassini Division. The rings are nicely tilted wide open to our line of sight - over 24 degrees, the most since 2005.
- 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?
Jupiter and Europa by Ulf Stromquist
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.