Listen to this tour of the stars and planets that you’ll see overhead during June. Learn how to spot three planets before dawn, and to track down a snake-handler in the early summer sky. Grab your curiosity, and come along on this month’s Sky Tour.

This episode is sponsored by Celestron, manufacturer of high-quality telescopes and an industry leader in developing exciting optical products with revolutionary technologies.

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Listen to this episode on Sky & Telescope’s YouTube channel.

Right now the lunar phases are in close sync with the calendar. New Moon comes on June 6th; first quarter falls early on the 14th, followed by the full Strawberry Moon on June 21st. After that the Moon rises later and later in the evening. The last-quarter Moon, on the night of June 28th, pops up in the east well after midnight.

This will be a month with no comets, no strong meteor showers, no eclipses of the Sun or Moon, and no planets in the evening sky. Bummer! Now, it is possible to spot Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, but to do that you’ll have to be up very early, at least 30 or 45 minutes before sunrise. For details about where to look, download our Sky Tour podcast!

Meanwhile, look high up at nightfall, and you’ll see a really dazzling star called Arcturus. It ranks as the fourth brightest star in the nighttime sky. You probably know that #1 is Sirius, which has dropped out of sight in the west until later this year. And #2 and #3 on the list are Canopus and Alpha Centauri, which can’t be seen from the mid-northern latitudes where most of us live. So Arcturus is the brightest star you’ll see all summer. It’s a relatively old red-giant star about 37 light-years away from us.

Ophiuchus the Serprent Holder
Although Scorpius is more famous, the less-well-known constellation Ophiuchus, the Serpent Holder, is quite large and situated nearby.

Visible right now is a big constellation that you’ve probably never heard of. It’s called Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer. This is a huge chunk of celestial real estate without any really bright stars. So are you up for a starfinding challenge?

Wait until about 11 p.m., or a little earlier at the end of June, then look 1½ fists to the upper left of Antares in Scorpius to reach the star Sabik. Go three fists above that, and a little left, to spot Rasalhague, which is Arabic for “head of the Serpent charmer.” One oddity about Ophiuchus is that he’s holding a snake, the constellation Serpens, that’s actually in two pieces — with one half to his right and the other to his left. It’s the only constellation, out of all 88, that has this split personality.

Look to the left of Ophiuchus, over the eastern horizon, and you’ll spot three bright stars. These mark the well-known asterism, or star pattern, known as the Summer Triangle. The star Vega is brightest and highest in the sky. To its lower left is Deneb, and to Vega’s lower right is Altair. Get used to seeing this famous trio — they’ll be with us each night for the next six months.

And there’s so much more to see in the June sky. So click on the links here to check out the June episode of our long-running Sky Tour podcast — a fun, easy way to improve what you know about the nighttime sky.

Read the full podcast transcript.


Image of Fire-Starter James

Fire-Starter James

June 1, 2024 at 1:43 pm

Ophiuchus is my Sun sign. 😉

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