What are some skywatching highlights in June 2021?
Catch Saturn and Jupiter in the morning, and the constellation Scorpius after dark! Plus skywatchers in the Northeast U.S., Eastern Canada, and Northern Europe can see a partial solar eclipse on June 10th.
What’s Up for June? A partial solar eclipse, the scorpion’s sting, and June is for Juno!
Following last month’s total lunar eclipse, June brings us a solar eclipse. On June 10th, the Moon will slip briefly between Earth and the Sun, partially obscuring our local star from view.
Whereas May’s lunar eclipse was best viewed around the Pacific, this month’s solar eclipse will be a treat for those in the northeast U.S., eastern Canada, and Northern Europe. For U.S. viewers, this is a sunrise event, with the Moon already appearing to have taken a bite out of the Sun as it’s rising. So you’ll want to find a clear view toward the eastern horizon to observe it. Those farther to the north and east will see more of the Sun obscured by the Moon. For those in northern Europe, it’s more of a lunchtime eclipse.
(Wherever you are, please review eclipse safety practices, and never look at the Sun without proper protection for your eyes.)
On summer evenings, you may notice a curved grouping of stars crawling across the southern sky, among them a brilliant red beacon. This is the constellation Scorpius, the scorpion, and beginning in June, it’s the prime time to look for it.
This grouping of stars has been thought of as having the shape of a scorpion going back to ancient times in the Mediterranean and Middle East. In the Greek myth, the scorpion’s deadly sting brought down the great hunter Orion, and that’s why – the story goes – we find them on opposite sides of the sky today.
This pattern of stars also been seen as part of a great dragon, in China, and the fish hook of the demigod Maui in Hawaii. That fish-hook shape also forms the tail of the scorpion.
At the beginning of June, if you’re in the northern hemisphere, the scorpion’s tail might still be below the horizon for you, early in the evening. It rises over the first few hours after dark. But by the end of the month, the scorpion’s tail will be above the horizon after sunset for most stargazers.
That bright, beacon-like star in Scorpius is Antares, which is a huge red giant star, and one of the brightest in the sky. It forms the blazing heart of the scorpion. So look toward the south and use Antares as your guide to find the constellation Scorpius.
Finally this month, you’ll remember back in December, when Jupiter and Saturn had their incredibly close meetup in the sky. In the runup to that “Great Conjunction,” Jupiter led Saturn across the sky all through 2020. Well, 6 months later, the pair continue to move farther apart, and now Saturn has the lead position as the two planets rise and set. Look for them in the east after midnight, or toward the south at dawn.
And for more Jupiter excitement in June, NASA’s Juno spacecraft is making its next close flyby over Jupiter on June 8th, and this time it will also make a low-altitude flyby over the planet-sized, icy moon Ganymede on June 7th. This is the first of several planned flybys of the Jovian moons by Juno, over the next couple of years, that include encounters with icy Europa and volcanic Io!
Here are the phases of the Moon for June.
You can catch up on all of NASA’s missions to explore the solar system and beyond at nasa.gov. I’m Preston Dyches from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and that’s What’s Up for this month.