What to see in the night sky in June
Welcome to June, a glorious month filled with the sweet fragrance of flowers, BBQs, long days and short evenings. It’s also the start of summer, offering those interested in gazing up at the night sky an opportunity to do so with little more than a blanket or lawn chair. Check out our list below for some highlights to catch in the skies above this month. Wishing you clear evenings!
Dark skies courtesy of the new moon (June 3)
The arrival of the new moon on June 24 will provide dark skies for clear views of the heavens. (Photo: Coconino National Forest/Flickr)
Despite June’s short nights, the arrival of the new moon on June 3 will present a wonderful (and warm) opportunity to sit outside. For some, those dark evenings will also be complemented with flights of beautiful firefly displays on the ground.
Arietids Meteor Shower (June 7-8)
The Arietids will peak during the daylight hours, but they may still produce some beautiful shooting stars for early risers. (Photo: Robert Emperley/Flickr)
With a peak display of more than 60 shooting stars each hour, the Arietids are one of the best meteor showers of the year. There’s only one problem: they’re nearly impossible to see. Unlike the Leonids or the Perseids, the Arietids are one of a few meteor showers that peak during the daylight hours.
Despite the sun obscuring much of the Arietids’ fiery display, there’s still a chance to catch some before sunrise on the mornings of June 7 and 8. And if waking up early to see shooting stars is disagreeable, why not try hearing them? The Arietids are also known as a “radio shower” due to the way their intense speed (upwards of 75,000 mph) through Earth’s atmosphere creates whining radar echoes. According to NASA, you can listen to them burning up by simply using a ham radio.
Catch Jupiter’s Great Red Spot (June 10)
The planet Jupiter will continue to dominate the heavens for much of June. This makes it the perfect target for astronomers, even those with small telescopes, to pick out and marvel at its beauty. While the planet’s iconic Great Red Spot will be easy to spot on several evenings throughout the month, conditions on June 10 will offer a particularly good view. On that date, Jupiter will be at opposition with Earth, coming within 409 million miles of backyard telescopes. Look for the planet to rise just after nightfall and be visible all evening at a magnitude brightness of -2.4.
Rise and shine for the year’s earliest sunrise (June 14)
Early birds will appreciate the year’s earliest dawn. (Photo: Victor Bergmann/Flickr)
While the summer solstice on June 21 is the longest day of the year, it’s not the one with the earliest sunrise. What gives? There are a variety of factors that influence this quirk involving the speed and slightly elliptical path of Earth’s orbit around the sun and the tilt of its axis. The math all adds up to make the earliest sunrise about a week before the summer solstice and the latest sunset about a week after. The exact date of this depends on what latitude you reside on. So, for instance, if you reside in the mid-northern latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, or Boulder, Colorado), you could expect the earliest sunrise of the year to occur on the June 14 at 5:31 a.m.
Either way, it’s yet another reminder of the spectacular early morning dawns that dominate all of June as we make the transition back to shorter days.
The Strawberry Moon (June 17)
June’s full moon will arrive in the early morning hours of June 28 at 1:31 a.m. Like other monthly lunar cycles, this moon is so-named by Native Americans for its timing with ripening strawberries. It’s also known as the Green Corn Moon and the Honey Moon (due to the first spring crop of honey from hives across the Northern Hemisphere.)
Summer Solstice (June 21)
Crowds greet the summer solstice at Stonehenge in the United Kingdom. (Photo: Stonehenge Stone Circle/Flickr)
At 11:54 a.m. EST, the Northern Hemisphere will experience its greatest tilt towards the sun and enjoy both its shortest night and longest day of the year. In the U.S., this means a sunrise around 5:27 a.m. and a sunset near 8:43 p.m. The official start to summer in the Northern Hemisphere, the event also marks the longest night of the year and start of winter for the Southern Hemisphere.
The event, however, is bittersweet as it marks the slow progression back towards winter and a loss of more than six hours of daylight by Dec. 21. In other words, get out there and enjoy this most festive, warm, and well-earned longest day of the year!
Bootids Meteor Shower (June 27)
The Bootids may only send a handful of shooting stars our way. (Photo: Kev Haworth Photography/Flickr)
The end of June brings the return of the Bootids meteor shower, an annual event that (thankfully) can be enjoyed during the evening hours. Well, “enjoyed” may not be the right word, as the Bootids are notorious for having extremely weak displays, with as little as two to three shooting stars per hour. The reason they’re worth mentioning at all is because some years, they’ve littered the sky with streaks of light.
On June 27, 1998, as many as 100 meteors per hour fell over the course of the seven-hour event. According to Spaceweather, similar outbursts occurred in 1916, 1921 and 1927. Could 2019 join that historic group? To give the Bootids a shot, look towards the constellation Bootes, which lies to the left of the Little Dipper.
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in June 2017 and has been updated with more recent information.
What to see in the night sky in June
Get ready to spend the month of June staring up at the night sky to see the Arietids and Bootids meteor showers and Jupiter’s Great Red Spot.