Friday, June 1
Saturday, June 2
Sunday, June 3
Monday, June 4
Tuesday, June 5
Wednesday, June 6
Thursday, June 7
Friday, June 8
Saturday, June 9
Want to become a better amateur astronomer? Learn your way around the constellations. They're the key to locating everything fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope.
For an easy-to-use 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. Or download our free Getting Started in Astronomy booklet (which only has bimonthly maps).
Once you get a telescope, to put it to good use you'll need a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts). The standards are the little Pocket Sky Atlas, which shows stars to magnitude 7.6; the larger and deeper Sky Atlas 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 8.5); and the even larger Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.75). And read how to use sky charts effectively.
You'll also want a good deep-sky guidebook, such as Sue French's Deep-Sky Wonders collection (which includes its own charts), Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Strong and Sinnott, the bigger Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner, or the classic if dated Burnham's Celestial Handbook.
Can a computerized telescope replace charts? I don't think so — not for beginners, anyway, and especially not on mounts and tripods that are less than top-quality mechanically (able to point with better than 0.2° repeatability). As Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer say in their invaluable 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."
This Week's Planet Roundup
Mercury is beginning to emerge into view low in the sunset. By late this week, look for it low in the west-northwest about 30 minutes after sundown. Don't confuse it with Capella well to its right, in the northwest.
Venus is essentially hidden in the glare of the Sun this week — except for about 6 hours and 20 minutes when its black silhouette transits the face of the Sun itself on June 5–6 (on the afternoon of the 5th for North America). For full information, see our article Your Guide to Viewing the Transit of Venus and its links to safely viewing the Sun, photographing the event, watching it on webcams worldwide, and much more. This will be the last Venus transit until 2117.
Mars (magnitude +0.5) shines orange near the hind foot of Leo, high in the southwest at dusk and lower in the west as evening grows late. It's now roughly a third of the way from Regulus (off to its lower right) to the Saturn-and-Spica pair (left). Mars is heading east against the stars to pass right between Saturn and Spica in mid-August.
In a telescope Mars is gibbous and tiny (about 7.7 arcseconds wide), continuing to fade and shrink.
Jupiter is buried deep in the sunrise.
Saturn (magnitude +0.5, in Virgo) shines high in the south at nightfall. Below it by nearly 5° is Spica, looking a trace fainter and bluer. By late evening they move to the southwest.
Uranus (magnitude 5.9, at the Pisces-Cetus border) is low in the east before the first light of dawn.
Neptune (magnitude 7.9, in Aquarius) is in the southeast before dawn. Finder charts for Uranus and Neptune.
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 that also depend on longitude (mainly Moon positions) are for North America. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) equals Universal Time (also known as UT, UTC, or GMT) minus 4 hours.
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