The night sky in June 2016

posted 30 May 2016, 08:19 by Pete Collins   [ updated 30 May 2016, 12:30 ]
by Anne Holt

Sunset:  1st   21.28     30th:  21.41

The Summer Solstice is on June 20th.  If you really must be precise, at 23.34 BST.

The latest sunset time is 21.49 from 20th to 28th inclusive.  earliest sunrise 04.39 from 16th to 18th.

New moon:  5th     Full moon:  20th.

June highlights

For a start, it really is too light, as we approach the longest day - or, as we prefer to think of it, the shortest night.

In early June both Jupiter and Mars are still shining very brightly in the first part of the night - Jupiter high in the West,  Mars low in the South.
It's also the season for noctilucent clouds.  Look low in the North West a couple of hours after sunset, or the North East a couple of hours before sunrise.  These rather eerie wispy blue clouds are caused when the sun shines on ice crystals high in the atmosphere - so high that they are still in sunlight after it has set for observers on the ground.

There are some high, bright passes of the ISS in the first week or so of June, so get outside and give Tim a wave!


The Plough asterism in Ursa Major is still prominent, being overhead for much of the night, leaving Cassiopeia on the opposite side of the Pole Star, low in the northern sky. The Summer Triangle, consisting of Vega, Deneb and Altair, is now getting higher in the late evening, though Altair, in Aquila, is still quite low in the early part of the night.  The beautiful double star Albireo, at the head of Cygnus the swan, is very well placed for observing. The Milky Way is now visible from dark sky sites, running across the sky through the Summer Triangle, passing almost overhead in the early hours. The bright orange red Arcturus is shining brightly high in the SW and, if you manage to find some dark skies not obscured by cloud, you should be able to see the rest of the kite shaped Bootes, with the semicircle of stars forming Corona Borealis just to the east of it. Another red giant, Antares in Scorpio is now visible just above the southern  horizon - it's easy to find at them moment, being just below Mars.


Mercury: Reaches Greatest Western Elongation on 5th but is too low to be easily visible in the dawn sky.

Venus: Reaches superior conjunction on 6th so appears too close to the Sun to be visible for most of the month.  Might just be spotted, very low in the SW, a few minutes after sunset at the end of June.

Mars:  in Libra,  mag minus 2. Just past opposition low in the South but still unmissable as it is so bright, especially in the early part of June, when it is at its closest to Earth.  It is moving slowly Westwards (retrograde) against the background stars. It's at its highest point soon after midnight in early June and as the sky darkens by month end, when it will have faded to mag minus 1.4 as it moves away from us.

Jupiter:  in Leo, mag minus 2. Still very prominent and bright in the early part of the night in the south west, setting around 2.30 at the beginning of the month. By month end it will have dimmed slightly to minus 1.9 and be setting soon after midnight.

Saturn:  in Ophiuchus,  mag 0.0. Reaches opposition on 3rd but still overshadowed by the nearby, much brighter, Mars.  It is visible for most of the night, low in the South.  Worth viewing through a scope during the first few days of the month when the rings will appear particularly bright.  This is because the sun shines directly on the planet at opposition, so the shadows of the smaller bodies making up the rings, which usually have the effect of dimming them, are directly behind and cannot be seen.

Uranus: in Pisces, mag 5.8. Rising in the early hours but not easily visible in the brightening sky.

Neptune: in Aquarius, mag 7.9. Rising around midnight by month end. It can't be seen by even the keenest naked eye but might be visible in binoculars from a dark sky site.  A telescope will show its blue disc. On 20th, it will be occulted by the Moon, the bad news is that the full event will only be visible from much further South -  Australia,  New Zealand and parts of the South Pacific.  From Manchester, the moon rises soon after midnight and Neptune will appear from behind it about half an hour later.

Meteor Showers

No major showers visible this month.

June Bootids, debris from comet 7P/Pons-Winnecke,  peak on the night of 23rd/24th.   This shower has been known to produce a very high number of meteors but is not expected to be active this year as the Earth now passes some distance from the dust cloud which produced the storms.

June Lyrids:   moderately fast, faint blue meteors with a radiant near Vega, have a very short peak - ZHR 8-10,  on the night of June 15th/16th.  The parent body for these has not been identified but it is thought that, as with the Bootids, Earth no longer passes through the stream.  In the past, they have been quite active for a number of years then disappeared so, even though the shower is thought to be almost extinct, it is possible they will appear again.

Throughout June there should be a few meteors from the antihelion source - several very small indistinguishable showers with their radiant on the ecliptic, directly opposite the position of the sun.

The major June shower is the Arieds, peaking on 7th.  However these are active in the daytime so can only be detected using radio equipment.
Daytime showers were first discovered at Jodrell bank, in the late 50s, by a team including Dr (later Sir) Bernard Lovell. They were looking for cosmic rays.