June can be a tricky time to go stargazing in the northern hemisphere. With equinox coming later in the month, astronomical darkness is in short supply, particularly if you live in northerly latitudes. However, with some careful planning and a few late nights (and early starts) it will be possible to see some incredible sights with your naked eyes even in this “twilight zone.”
Here’s everything you need to know about stargazing in June 2023:
1. Mars in the Beehive cluster
Friday, June 2, 2023
One of the best sites in a pair of binoculars in spring and summer is the beehive cluster. Also called M44, this open cluster of stars is around 520 light years away in the constellation of cancer, the crab. In a pair of binoculars you can see about 12 bright blue stars, but on June 2, 2023 they will be joined by the red planet. Although far from its best (opposition in December 2022), it will have astrophotographers out in force to take an image of the red planet among the blue stars.
2. The rise of the ‘Strawberry Moon’
Saturday, June 3, 2023
The third and final full Moon of spring in the northern hemisphere, the “Strawberry Moon” will appear on the eastern horizon draped in orange hues most vividly on the evening of Saturday, June 3, 2023. For the northern hemisphere this will be the lowest-hanging full moon of the year simply because it’s opposite the highest-hanging sun. You’ll find Antares, the brightest star in the summer constellation of Scorpius, just below the “Strawberry Moon.”
3. Venus in the Beehive cluster
Tuesday, June 13, 2023
Just a few weeks after Mars’ appearance in M44, Venus will have its turn. With Mars now about M44, the bright (but not for long) “Evening Star” will look look incredible with the naked eye—though to see the best of the Beehive cluster’s blue stars, use any pair of binoculars. It won’t be as close as the Mars-M44 event, but since it’s brighter it will be more impressive to the naked eye.
4. See the arc of the Milky Way
June 10-20, 2023
Summer is the best time to see the Milky Way from the northern hemisphere, but conditions have to be perfect. You’ll need a very dark sky, which means getting as far as you can from urban lights. The best time to try is the week before (and a few nights after) the New Moon, which occurs on June 18 this month. However, you will have to stay up late—it won’t get properly dark until at least midnight.
5. Venus and a crescent Moon on the solstice
Wednesday, June 21, 2023
The summer solstice—the longest day, and shortest night, of the year—means zero darkness for northerly latitudes, and a short night for the entire northern hemisphere. However, if you look west shortly after dark tonight you’ll see a beautiful 13%-lit crescent Moon beside bright planet Venus. Look at the Moon’s darkened limb, something called “Earthshine—sunlight being reflected by the Earth back on to the Moon. Just above the pair will be red planet Mars.
Times and dates given apply to mid-northern latitudes. For the most accurate location-specific information consult online planetariums like Stellarium and The Sky Live. Check planet-rise/planet-set, sunrise/sunset and moonrise/moonset times for where you are.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.