Friday, May 31
Saturday, June 1
Sunday, June 2
Monday, June 3
Tuesday, June 4
Wednesday, June 5
Thursday, June 6
Friday, June 7
Saturday, June 8
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 guide to 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 with a telescope.
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 beloved if dated Burnham's Celestial Handbook.
Can a computerized telescope replace charts? Not for beginners, I don't think, and 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, Venus, and Jupiter are still visible in the afterglow of sunset, forming a straight line pointing downward just above the west-northwest horizon as shown at the top of this page. Venus is the brightest. Jupiter, the bottom one, becomes harder to see each day and is gone by the end of the week. Mercury on top is having its best evening appearance of 2013.
On May 31st this line of three is 7° long and the planets are equally spaced. By June 5th the line is 13° long with Jupiter falling far away. See our article The May-June Planet Dance, with a video running all the way to June 20th.
Mars is hidden behind the glare of the Sun.
Saturn (magnitude +0.2, in Libra) glows in the south during evening, with Spica to its right. In a telescope, Saturn's rings are tilted 17° from our line of sight. See our guide "Scrutinizing Saturn" in the May Sky & Telescope, page 50, or the shorter version online. And identify Saturn's many moons at any time and date with our SaturnMoons utility or handier app.
Uranus (magnitude 5.9, in Pisces) is low in the east at the beginning of dawn.
Neptune (magnitude 7.9, in Aquarius) is in the southeast before dawn begins. Use our 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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