Friday, June 7
• Just after dark look for Regulus upper left of the Moon, as shown here. From there, trace out the rest of Leo.
• Ceres, the largest asteroid, dims from magnitude 7.3 to 7.6 this week. Find it about 9° north of Antares using the article and finder chart in the May Sky & Telescope, page 48.
Saturday, June 8
• Now the Moon shines closer above Regulus at nightfall, as shown here.
• The Big Dipper hangs very high in the northwest after dark. The middle star of its bent 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 high in the east. If your eyes aren't quite sharp enough, binoculars show Alcor easily.
Sunday, June 9
• First-quarter Moon (exact at 1:59 a.m. tonight EDT). The Moon shines in the hind feet of Leo. Look 10° above it (about a fist at arm's length) for Denebola, the tip of Leo's tail.
Almost twice as far to the Moon's lower right is Regulus, Leo's forefoot.
Monday, June 10
• Jupiter is at opposition tonight, opposite the Sun as seen from Earth. It's that bright white point in the southeast after dark. It's in southern Ophiuchus, to the left of orange Antares and the other, lesser stars of upper Scorpius.
And despite an ignorant news report that's circulating all over the world, you can see Jupiter's moons with binoculars anytime Jupiter is up — not just at opposition! Who creates this nonsense?
Tuesday, June 11
• Spica sparkles to the lower left of the Moon this evening. More than twice as far upper left of the Moon is brighter Arcturus.
Wednesday, June 12
• Now Spica is lower right of the moon, and Arcturus shines high above them.
Thursday, June 13
• With summer only 8 days away, the Summer Triangle 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 a greater distance to Vega's lower right.
Friday, June 14
• Look far below the Moon in late twilight and after dark for Antares and Jupiter, as shown here.
• The Big Dipper now hangs straight down by its handle as the stars come out, high in the northwest.
Saturday, June 15
• Now the bright Moon forms a not-quite-equilateral triangle with Jupiter to its lower left and Antares to its lower right, as shown here. Think photo opportunity. The triangle is 10° from end to end, so use a moderately long lens. Or even try zooming in with a phone camera braced rock-steady.
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 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.
Once you get a telescope, to put it to good use you'll need a 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 stars to magnitude 7.6.
Next up is the larger and deeper Sky Atlas 2000.0, plotting stars to magnitude 8.5; nearly three times as many. The next up, once you know your way around, are the even larger Interstellarum atlas (stars to magnitude 9.5) and 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, or the bigger Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner.
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 (meaning heavy and expensive). 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."
Mercury (in Gemini) glimmers low in evening twilight. Look for it in the west-northwest about 45 to 60 minutes after sunset. This week it fades by almost half, from magnitude –0.6 to –0.1. Don't confuse Mercury with twinklier Procyon some 25° to its left, or Capella about the same distance to its right.
Venus (magnitude –3.8) is very low in the dawn. About 20 minutes before sunrise, scan for it with binoculars a little above the east-northeast horizon.
Mars (a mere magnitude +1.8, in Gemini) is upper left of much-brighter Mercury as evening twilight fades away. Their separation closes rapidly, from 8½° on June 7th to 2½° on the 14th. Pollux and Castor watch from above.
Mercury and Mars will appear closest together, a mere ½° apart or less, on June 17th and 18th.
Jupiter (magnitude –2.6, in southern Ophiuchus) is at opposition on June 10th. This week it glares low in the southeast by late twilight. Antares, much fainter at magnitude +1.0, twinkles about 10° to its right. Jupiter is highest in the south by around midnight or 1 a.m. daylight saving time, with orange Antares now to its lower right.
In a telescope Jupiter is 46 arcseconds wide. See Bob King's Jupiter Is Outstanding at Opposition. And big changes continue in and around Jupiter's Great Red Spot, as seen in the images here.
Saturn (magnitude +0.3, in Sagittarius) rises around the end of twilight. It's the steady, pale yellowish "star" about 30° east of Jupiter. Saturn's opposition comes July 9th.
Uranus is still deep in the glow of dawn.
Neptune (magnitude 7.9, in Aquarius) is in the east-southeast just before dawn begins, far lower right of the Great Square of Pegasus. Finder chart.
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) is Universal Time (UT, UTC, GMT, or Z time) minus 4 hours.
Audio sky tour. Out under the evening sky with your earbuds in place, listen to Kelly Beatty's monthly podcast tour of the heavens above. It's free.
“This adventure is made possible by generations of searchers strictly adhering to a simple set of rules. Test ideas by experiments and observations. Build on those ideas that pass the test. Reject the ones that fail. Follow the evidence wherever it leads, and question everything. Accept these terms, and the cosmos is yours.”
— Neil deGrasse Tyson, 2014