Friday, June 1

  • By 10 or 11 p.m. the Summer Triangle is up in the east. Its top corner is Vega, the brightest star in the eastern sky. Deneb is the brightest star to Vega's lower left. Look for Altair farther to Venus's lower right.

    Saturday, June 2

  • The gibbous Moon shines in the south-southeast after dark. Look well to its lower left for orange Antares. Nearly halfway between the Moon and Antares is the row of three stars marking the head of Scorpius.

    Sunday, June 3

  • This evening, look for Antares about 4° lower right of the full Moon (as seen from North America).

    Partially eclipsed Moon as seen from the West Coast

    In North America, the farther west you are the better for the pre-dawn partial eclipse of the Moon on Monday morning June 4th.

    Sky & Telescope diagram

  • Partial eclipse of the Moon before and during dawn Monday morning for central and western North America. The partial eclipse begins at 3:00 a.m. PDT; mid-eclipse (with 38% of the Moon's diameter in shadow) is at 4:03 a.m. PDT; partial eclipse ends at 5:07 a.m. PDT. For details see June 4th's Partial Eclipse of the Moon.

    Monday, June 4

  • This evening the bright Moon shines well to the left of Antares.

    Tuesday, June 5

  • Transit of Venus across the face of the Sun this afternoon for North and Central America; on June 6th local date for Asia, Australia, and much of Europe. Lots more information and further links: Your Viewing Guide to the Transit of Venus.

    Wednesday, June 6

  • Look very high in the south after dark for bright Arcturus. Much lower, and perhaps a bit right, are Saturn and (below it) Spica. Farther down to their lower right is the four-star pattern of Corvus, the Crow.

    Thursday, June 7

  • Have you ever explored the swarm of galaxies awaiting your telescope by the head of Serpens? Work your way through them using the detailed finder chart in Sue French's Deep-Sky Wonders article in the June Sky & Telescope, page 56.

    Friday, June 8

  • With June well under way, the Big Dipper has swung around to hang down by its handle high in the northwest during evening. The middle star of its handle is Mizar, with little Alcor right next to it. On which side of Mizar should you look for Alcor? As always, on the side toward bright Vega, which is now shining in the east-northeast.

    Saturday, June 9

  • Binocular observers are often told to recognize a globular cluster as "a fuzzy star." How fuzzy? You can make the comparison very directly between the globular cluster M5 and the star 5 Serpentis just southeast of it. The star is magnitude 5.1; the cluster is 5.7 in total. See Gary Seronik's Binocular Highlight finder chart and article in the June Sky & Telescope, page 44.

    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).

    Sky Atlas 2000.0 (the color Deluxe Edition is shown here) plots 81,312 stars to magnitude 8.5. That includes most of the stars that you can see in a good finderscope, and typically one or two stars that will fall within a 50× telescope's field of view wherever you point. About 2,700 deep-sky objects to hunt are plotted among the stars.

    Alan MacRobert

    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

    Venus on May 31, 2012

    The crescent of Venus is growing ever thinner as it nears the Sun. On May 31st, five days and 90 minutes before the transit is scheduled to begin, "while running final tests on the gear I plan using to record the transit, I swung the scope to Venus," writes Dennis di Cicco. "The image here was made by stacking video frames in Registax 6, with the color added in Photoshop." He used a TV-85 refractor with a 2.4x Barlow and DMK video camera.

    S&T: Dennis di Cicco

    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 transits the Sun

    Venus crossing the Sun during its last transit, on June 8, 2004. Image by Sky & Telescope contributing photographer Babak Tafreshi. Click on the image for a high-res version. You may reprint/ reuse this image if the credit line and link below are included.

    S&T: Babak Tafreshi

    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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