To repeat, there's no spectacular "planet parade" now dazzling the world. It's just another crazy-weird falsehood that has ballooned across the internet and certain "news" outlets. Details last week. Pass this on to friends and relatives who ask you.


■ The waxing crescent Moon returns to the evening sky, crossing the upright Gemini twins as they set for the season feet first, as shown below. This evening the low, thin crescent is only 1½ days old.

Crescent Moon passing Castor and Pollux in twilight, June 7-9, 2024
The returning Moon isn't yet lighting up the dark night sky, but soon it will. Tackle those tough deep-sky targets now after dark.


■ The crescent Moon forms a roughly right triangle with Pollux and Castor over it, as shown above. How perfect the right triangle is will depend on your location. Hint: If you're in the Mountain time zone, examine the triangle really carefully.


■ The Big Dipper has now swung around to hang down by its handle high in the northwest after dark. The middle star of its handle is Mizar, with tiny little Alcor right next to it. On which side of Mizar should you look for Alcor? As always, on the side toward Vega! Which is now the brightest star shining in the east.

■ When Vega shines well up in the east as it does now, Arcturus is the brightest star higher toward the south, neatly overhead. Draw a line from Arcturus to Vega. A third of the way along the line is dim Corona Borealis, the semicircular Northern Crown, as shown here:

How to find Hercules and Corona Borealis
The line from Arcturus to Vega crosses Corona Borealis and the Keystone of Hercules. The view here is oriented as at appears (much larger!) if you face southeast after dark and turn the graphic somewhat counterclockwise.

Corona's one moderately bright star is Alpha Cor Bor, a.k.a. Gemma or Alphecca, magnitude 2.2. But sometime within the next year or so, astronomers expect there may suddenly be two! Because T Coronae Borealis, a famous recurrent nova, shows signs (a gradual dimming) of being about to blow again for its first time since 1946. If it does, if could match the brightness of Alphecca.

Normally T CrB simmers along uneasily at about 10th magnitude. Its explosive rise may take only about a day. Use the finder chart with Bob King's article from 2016. The chart there is detailed enough for identifying T with a telescope even at 10th magnitude.

But no guarantees an eruption will happen anytime soon. It didn't in 2016.


■ The Big Dipper hangs high in the northwest as the stars come out. The Dipper's Pointers, currently its bottom two stars, point lower right toward Polaris. Above Polaris, and looking very similar to it, is Kochab, the lip of the Little Dipper's bowl, the rest of which is very dim.

Kochab stands precisely above Polaris around the end of twilight or a little after. How precisely can you time this event for your location, perhaps using the vertical edge of a building?

■ After nightfall is complete, Vega is the brightest star very high in the east. Barely lower left of it is 4th-magnitude Epsilon Lyrae, the Double-Double. Epsilon forms one corner of a roughly equilateral triangle with Vega and Zeta Lyrae. The triangle is less than 2° on a side, hardly the width of your thumb at arm's length.

Binoculars easily resolve Epsilon. And a 4-inch telescope at 100× or more should resolve each of Epsilon's wide components into a tight pair.

Zeta Lyrae is also a double star for binoculars; much tougher, but plainly resolved in a telescope.

Delta Lyrae, below Zeta, is a much wider and easier pair, reddish orange and pale blue.


■ After dusk, look for Regulus a few degrees lower left of the thick waxing crescent Moon. Algieba, Gamma Leonis, is about twice as far above the Moon (for North America). It's a fine telescopic double star, magnitudes 2.4 and 3.6, separation 4.7 arcseconds.


■ Bright Arcturus, magnitude 0, shines pale yellow-orange high overhead toward the south these evenings. The kite shape of Boötes, its constellation, extends from Arcturus. The kite is narrow, slightly bent, and 23° long: about two fists at arm's length. It extends up from Arcturus when you face south after dark now.


■ First-quarter Moon (exactly first-quarter at 1:18 a.m. tonight EDT). The Moon shines at the Leo-Virgo border, two fists upper left of Regulus and three fists right of Spica, the brightest stars of the two constellations.

About a fist above the Moon right after dark is 2nd-magnitude Denebola, Leo's tail. Denebola forms an almost perfectly equilateral triangle with Spica off to its left and brighter Arcturus above them. All three sides of the triangle are close to 35° long (35.3°, 35.1°, and 32.8°). S&T columnist George Lovi named it the Spring Triangle (in the March 1974 issue), and for such a near-perfect equilateral, I say the name ought to be revived.


■ As we count down the last six days to official summer (the solstice comes on June 20th), the Summer Triangle finally stands high and proud in the east after dark. Its top star is bright Vega. Deneb is the brightest star to Vega's lower left, by 2 or 3 fists at arm's length. Look for Altair farther to Vega's lower right. Altair is midway in brightness between Vega and Deneb.


■ As the stars come out in North America, the Moon shines nearly midway between Spica to its lower left and fainter Gamma Virginis (Porrima) to its upper right; see below. Gamma Vir is a lovely, equal-brightness double star for telescopes, separation 3.4 arcseconds this year; it's slowly widening. The pair is oriented almost north-south.

Waxing gibbout Moon passing Spica, June 15-16, 2024
When the Moon steps across Spica in early or mid-June, it's always waxing gibbous.


■ In twilight as summer nears, look very low in the north-northwest for wintry Capella very out of season. The farther north you are, the less low it will appear. You may need binoculars. But if you're as far north as Montreal or either of the Portlands (Oregon or Maine), Capella is actually circumpolar.

This Week's Planet Roundup

Mars and Saturn are in nice view just as dawn begins. The highest and easiest is Saturn, in the southeast. It's magnitude 1.2, fairly modest, but there's nothing else that bright anywhere near it. Its background is dim Aquarius.

Saturn's rings this season are nearly edge-on! Note the stark black shadow they're casting southward onto the planet. South here is up. Christopher Go, in the low-latitude Philippines, took this image shortly before sunrise on June 1st.

The rings will turn exactly edge-on March 23, 2025 when Saturn will unfortunately be too close to the Sun to observe.

Look for Mars far lower left of Saturn, by about four fists at arm's length; it's almost due east. Mars is magnitude 1.1. Don't confuse it with twinkly Alpha Arietis, magnitude 2.0, about a fist to Mars's upper left.

Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, and Uranus remain hidden in the Sun's glare.

Neptune, 8th magnitude in Pisces, is fairly low in the east-southeast just before dawn begins, about 10° lower left of Saturn for the adventurer with large binoculars or a telescope, a detailed enough finder chart showing Neptune's current location among the many similarly faint stars, and skill in using sky charts outdoors in the night (whether on paper or a screen).

All descriptions that relate to your horizon — including the words up, down, right, and left — are written for the world's mid-northern latitudes. Descriptions and graphics that also depend on longitude (mainly Moon positions) are for North America.

Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) is Universal Time minus 4 hours. UT is also known as UTC, GMT, or Z time.

Want to become a better astronomer? Learn your way around the constellations. They're the key to locating everything fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope.

This is an outdoor nature hobby. For a more detailed constellation guide covering the whole evening sky, use the big monthly map in the center of each issue of Sky & Telescope, the essential magazine of astronomy.

Once you get a telescope, to put it to good use you'll need a much more detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts). The basic standard is the Pocket Sky Atlas (in either the original or Jumbo Edition), which shows all stars to magnitude 7.6.

Pocket Sky Atlas cover, Jumbo edition
The Pocket Sky Atlas plots 30,796 stars to magnitude 7.6, and hundreds of telescopic galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae among them. Shown here is the Jumbo Edition, which is in hard covers and enlarged for easier reading outdoors by red flashlight. Sample charts. More about the current editions.

Next up is the larger and deeper Sky Atlas 2000.0, plotting stars to magnitude 8.5; nearly three times as many. (It's currently out of print.) The next up are the even larger Interstellarum atlas (stars to magnitude 9.5) or Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to mag 9.75). And read How to Use a Star Chart with a Telescope. It applies just as much to charts on your phone or tablet, the preferred versions for many observers these days, as it does to charts on paper.

You'll also want a good deep-sky guidebook. A beloved old classic is the three-volume Burnham's Celestial Handbook. An impressive more modern one is the big Night Sky Observer's Guide set (2+ volumes) by Kepple and Sanner. The top of the hill for total astro-geeks is the Annals of the Deep Sky series, currently at 10 volumes as it slowly works forward through the constellations alphabetically. So far it's only up to F.

Can computerized telescopes replace charts? Not for beginners I don't think, and not for scopes on mounts and tripods that are less than top-quality mechanically. Unless, that is, you prefer spending your time getting finicky technology to work rather than learning the sky. And as Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer say in their Backyard Astronomer's Guide, "A full appreciation of the universe cannot come without developing the skills to find things in the sky and understanding how the sky works. This knowledge comes only by spending time under the stars with star maps in hand and a curious mind." Without these, "the sky never becomes a friendly place."

If you do get a computerized scope, make sure its drives can be disengaged so you can swing it around and point it readily by hand when you want to, rather than only slowly by the electric motors (which eat batteries).

However, finding faint telescopic objects the old-fashioned way with charts isn't simple either. Learn the essential tricks at How to Use a Star Chart with a Telescope. It applies just as much to charts on a screen as on paper.

Audio sky tour. Out under the evening sky with your
earbuds in place, listen to Kelly Beatty's monthly
podcast tour of the naked-eye heavens above. It's free.

"The dangers of not thinking clearly are much greater now than ever before. It's not that there's something new in our way of thinking, it's that credulous and confused thinking can be much more lethal in ways it was never before."
            — Carl Sagan, 1996

"Facts are stubborn things."
             John Adams, 1770


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June 7, 2024 at 1:03 pm

■ As we count down the last six days to official summer (the solstice comes on June 20th), " -

Just the earliest Northern Hemisphere sunsets occurs in the a couple of weeks before the December Solstice, the earliest NH sunrises occur 1 to 2 weeks before the June Solstice.

For viewers like in Los Angeles, sunrise occurs at 5:41am (PDT) from June 7th thru June 16th, and later than that in the days before and after that 10-day period.

Of course these are the times of sunrise measured against Civil Noon (12:00). During this 10-day period, Solar Noon at Los Angeles occurs at 12:53pm or 12:54pm (PDT) depending on the date. The largest difference between sunrise and Solar Noon is 7hr 13 mins on Jun 14th-16th.

The dates of earliest Sunrise measured against Civil and Solar Noons might occur on other dates depending on your latitude and longitude (distance from your time zone's "central" longitude: 75 degrees West, 90 degrees West, etc.)

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June 7, 2024 at 1:07 pm

The last sentence should read,

"The dates of earliest Sunrise measured against Civil and Solar Noons in other locations might occur on other dates ..."

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June 7, 2024 at 1:14 pm

During this same time and for a couple of weeks after the June Solstice, the time of sunset continues to occur later each day. The increasing times of sunset compensate for the later sunrises until the Solstice when the hours of daytime are longest. After the Solstice, the daily Sunrise times increase just enough to overcome the continuing later times of sunset, so the overall amount of daylight hours begin to decrease until the December Solstice.

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June 8, 2024 at 3:47 pm

That last comment isn't quite right.

Right now Solar Noon - when the Sun is due South - occurs earlier the Civil Noon (in Standard Time format, 11:54am versus 12:00 Noon, respectively), but Solar Noon is beginning to occur later each day.

Sunrise still occurs earlier each day relative to Solar Noon until the Solstice, but the shrinking difference between Solar and Civil Noon(s) "drags" the sunrise time later relative to Civil Noon after mid-June.

Sunsets occur later each day relative to Solar Noon until the Solstice, then begin occurring earlier.

The decrease in difference between Solar and Civil Noon that "drags" the sunrise time later each day relative to Civil Noon after mid-June, also adds to the time of Sunset mid-June through the Solstice. It continues to add to the Sunset time for a week or so after the Solstice, but it is still adding to the time of sunrise so the net amount of daylight hours decreases after the Solstice.

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June 7, 2024 at 1:29 pm

■ As the stars come out in North America, the Moon shines nearly midway between Spica to its lower left ...

June marks the beginning of a series of lunar occultations of Spica, as the Moon's descending node, slowly shifting westward, approaches then passes the star. At first the Moon will pass above the star, occulting it as seen from northern locations, then each month it will pass nearer and finally below it as the descending node moves further West.

This month's occultation will be viewable mainly in Western and Central Russia

... but the next one on the night of July 13th will be viewable in Canada and the U.S. (although only marginally visible along the West Coast)

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Anthony Barreiro

June 7, 2024 at 7:43 pm

I've seen Neptune through 10x42 image-stabilized binoculars twice in the past week.

Saturn is about 90 degrees from the Sun, exactly so this Sunday morning June 9. As seen in Christopher Go's lovely photo, this is the time when the shadow of Saturn's globe falls farthest onto the rings. I haven't gotten a telescopic view of Saturn during the current apparition. I can see Saturn (and Mars) from my back porch, but from the back yard they're still behind buildings, and I haven't been ambitious enough to carry my little refractor and tripod up the hill by 4 am to get a clear view.

P.S. to Misha -- Thank you. S&T should put you on their payroll!

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June 7, 2024 at 10:48 pm

Anthony: I will settle for a free subscription (just kidding, lol).

I remember a few years ago there was an article about trying for daylight naked-eye viewings of Jupiter at quadrature (90 degrees from the Sun) just after sunrise or just before sunset while the Sun was still (low) in the sky and dimmed by the thicker atmosphere so that the sky was not yet too bright. I guess you could try to do the same with Saturn, albeit you would need binoculars or a telescope.

I was able to view Antares through binoculars less than 10 minutes before sunrise back in January right after an occultation, using the nearby crescent Moon as a guide post. At the time the surrounding sky was bright because the Sun was only 40 degrees away; the background sky at quadurature should be darker due the greater separation from the Sun.

The next Moon-Saturn conjunction is on June 27th, with Saturn still near quadurature. The Moon will actually occult Saturn as seen from the United States, but will occur during the daytime.

However, we can watch the Moon slowly approaching Saturn before Sunrise and maybe use the Moon as a guide post to track Saturn into the post-dawn sky. Saturn will be magnitude 1.1, about the same brightness as Antares, so an assisted daytime sighting just after sunrise just might be "do-able".

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mary beth

June 8, 2024 at 5:53 pm

Hi Anthony, good to see you posting here. Hope you’re having a good start to summer.

I agree with you, Misha17 comments are really I interesting and informative!

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June 9, 2024 at 5:45 am

Where does anyone publish the exact ring angle for Saturn? Lots of graphics but no one I can find saying exactly what the graphic represents. Can't be surprised with that these days. 🙁

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Monica Young

June 10, 2024 at 10:23 am

Good question, Aaron! The program WinJUPOS will calculate that angle ( The Astronomical Almanac also tabulates the ring angle. Planetarium software like The SkyX can also give that information.

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