Welcome to the June night sky. This is the month of the summer Solstice in the northern hemisphere. It happens on the 20th this year and, after that date, the Sun will appear to move slightly lower each day in the mid-day sky. June 20 is, therefore, the longest day of the year and the first day of summer.
Although June also has the shortest nights of the year, it’s not short on meteor showers with more than a dozen of them visible during the month. This means that on any dark night in June, you will have a better-than-average chance of seeing a shooting star.
On the 21st, there is an annular eclipse of the Sun. These types of eclipses occur because, at that time, the Moon is slightly further away from the Earth than usual and, therefore, does not cover the solar disc fully and the ring of fire effect will be seen. Unfortunately, this event is not visible from Europe. The eclipse track is mainly over the Middle East and central China, with the famous city of Wuhan just missing out on the ring of fire but seeing an 86% eclipse at 4pm local time.
The gas giant planets Jupiter and Saturn are now rising just after midnight over in the south-eastern sky. They are both in the far southern constellation of Sagittarius.
Jupiter is the brightest of the pair, and this year Jupiter can be used to help find Pluto. This close encounter between the largest and the smallest planets in the solar system will happen three times this year and is called a triple conjunction. This is quite rare and the last time that it occurred was 65 years ago.
Pluto is seven times further away from the Sun than Jupiter and much smaller, so it is more than a million times fainter and can only be seen in a large telescope and a dark sky.
The ringed planet Saturn is always a fine sight through any small telescope with its rings and multiple faint Moons visible.
Jupiter has four major moons, and these are quite easy to see with any small telescope. Jupiter’s Moons were discovered by Galileo using a tiny homemade telescope magnifying about 20 times and this was more than 400 years ago.
The Moon is full on the 5th, last quarter on the 13th, new on the 21st and first quarter on June 28, 2020.
Clive Jackson is the Director of the Camera Obscura (next to the Castle in Tavira), specialising in education and public outreach.
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To see the June Sky Map click on the pdf link below