Sunday, June 10
Look high in the northwest after darkness falls this month, and you will see the familiar sight of the Big Dipper. The Dipper is the most conspicuous asterism — a recognizable pattern of stars that doesn’t form a complete constellation shape — in the entire sky. It forms the body and tail of Ursa Major the Great Bear. Use the Pointers, the two stars at the end of the Dipper’s bowl, to find Polaris, which lies due north for everyone north of the equator. Polaris marks the end of the Little Dipper’s handle. On June evenings, the relatively faint stars of this dipper arc directly above Polaris.
Monday, June 11
Venus appears 6° to the left of Gemini’s brightest star, Pollux, this evening. The Twins’ second-brightest star, Castor, lies 4.5° to Castor’s right. The three objects make a fine sight in the western sky from about an hour after sunset until they set around 11 p.m. local daylight time. Although Venus appears near Gemini’s brightest stars, it actually crosses into neighboring Cancer the Crab today.
Tuesday, June 12
Mars rises shortly before midnight local daylight time and climbs nearly 30° high in the south by the time morning twilight commences. Although it is still a month and a half away from its late July opposition, the Red Planet appears noticeably brighter than it did just a week ago. Shining at magnitude –1.6, it is the third-brightest point of light in the night sky after Venus and Jupiter. If you point a telescope toward Mars this morning, you’ll see a 17″-diameter disk that sports several subtle surface features.
Wednesday, June 13
Although Saturn will reach opposition and peak visibility two weeks from today, observers will be hard-pressed to see it as inferior this week. The ringed planet rises shortly after 9 p.m. local daylight time and appears highest in the south around 2 a.m. Saturn shines at magnitude 0.1 and stands out against the background stars of northern Sagittarius. If you target the planet through binoculars this week, you’ll find it 2.4° northwest of the 5th-magnitude globular star cluster M22 and 3.4° south of the similarly bright open cluster M25. But the beautiful world looks best through a telescope, which reveals its 18″-diameter disk and a stunning ring system that spans 42″ and tilts 26° to our line of sight.
New Moon occurs at 3:43 p.m. EDT. At its New phase, the Moon crosses the sky with the Sun and so remains hidden in our star’s glare.