Hey, Sky Fans!
And just like that, with a snap, it’s June again. The northern hemisphere’s summer solstice will be here in three weeks, if you can believe it. I haven’t done all the math, but with the solstice, and its inherent longest day of the year, June’s the month with the least night; the least time to gape at the sky.
That lack of night, though, doesn’t mean there isn’t anything worth looking at or looking for. You’ll just need to work a little harder, stay up a little later, to find it, but it’s worth it. Earlier this week, stitched through my trip down memory lane (which, in that case, was actually 22nd street), we talked about the stars you can find in these last few days of spring. So, for today, let’s talk about things a little closer to home. How about if we agree to keep it to things within about a billion miles, with just a small sprinkle of farther things?
Let’s get to it.
No time like the present. So today, June 1: Have a look by mid-late afternoon and see the more-or-less first-quarter Moon. First quarter is when the Moon’s right-hand half is lit. In the afternoon, you’ll see it almost hiding in plain sight, a white etching in the blue. Come nightfall, as the stars pop into view, it’ll be kinda-sorta-almost directly between the planet Jupiter and Regulus, the brightest star in Leo, the lion. If you’ve been looking for Jupiter, but haven’t been sure if you’ve seen it, here’s your chance to be sure. Use the Moon to find it, a brilliant bright object to the east, to the left, of the Moon, or, really 400 million miles behind it.
On Saturday night, June 3, Jupiter and the Moon will be just a couple of degrees apart; about the width of a finger held out at arm’s length. The two will travel the skies all night, along with Spica, and will make for a trim and tidy triangle.
A couple of nights later, on June 6, the Moon will shoot the gap between the two luxuriantly named, and luxuriantly bright stars in Libra, Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali. Imagine taking a friend along with you and pointing those out by name. It’ll be a good time for everyone involved, especially after a pint or two.
Come June 8, the Moon will be nearing full, and rising later. That night, it’ll be in another triangle, this time with the yellow planet Saturn, and red Antares, the bright, giant star in Scorpius, the scorpion. Scorpius is one of the most summery of summer’s constellations; a stunning sight to see rising into the night for the next couple of months.
And, finally for this tour, on the night of June 9, the Full Strawberry Moon, also called the Full Honey Moon, which might sound familiar thanks to all of June’s weddings, will cozy up alongside Saturn.
I admit, Saturn can be a little stubborn without lenses. It’s close to a billion miles away. It’s the farthest thing in our solar system that you can see with the naked eye, which is one of those space facts that I really love. What you’re seeing is sunlight that’s traveled a billion miles, bounced, and come back again, all just to get to your eye. I try to enjoy it, even on the toughest days, and imagine what it must be like close up. Over that stunning distance, its light has dimmed and weakened, so you’ll need to hunt for it a bit, but with the Moon to help out, you’ll be in good shape. Don’t worry, it’s a few days out yet, and we have a little more Saturn to talk about, so I’ll remind you about it next week.
Phew… there you have it. Now get out there, grab a friend, and look up. If you have even just a few minutes, it’s stunning.
Clear skies, everyone!