June 2017 night sky guide

To help you learn about the southern night sky, Sydney Observatory provides an audio guide/podcast, transcript of that audio, and a sky map or chart each month. This month’s guide is presented by Geoffrey Wyatt, Sydney Observatory’s Education Program Producer.
If you’re not sure how to find your way around the night sky, Geoff presents some easy tips for how you can find angles above the horizon just using your fist, fingers and arm – and it doesn’t matter how old or big you are as the sizes of your fist, fingers and arms are proportional with the rest of you – so it works for everyone!

Hear the Audio
You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or directly download this months guide to your favourite audio listening device.

See The Sky Chart
We provide a June 2017 night sky chart (PDF) which shows the stars, constellations and planets visible in the night sky from anywhere in Australia. To view PDF star charts you will need to download and install Adobe Acrobat Reader if it’s not on your computer already.

Read the Transcript
Hello there, my name’s Geoffrey Wyatt. I’m one of the Education team here at the Museum of Applied Arts Sciences’ Sydney Observatory, and I’m going to be talking to you about what’s in the sky for the month of Junius, the fourth month of the old Roman calendar as created by Romulus around 735 BC. After Julius Caesar’s last year of confusion and reform in 46 BC, it became the sixth month of the year, June.

This audio guide, the transcript and printable sky map are all available free from our website at www.sydneyobservatory.com.au/monthlyskyguides or simply go to our parent website at maas.museum.
I recommend that you use a printed sky map to help you navigate the night sky. You could use the free downloadable one from our website, or one from the Sydney Observatory book, ‘The Australasian Sky Guide’, by Dr Nick Lomb. I’ll give more details about that at the end of the podcast.

In my opinion, the month of June each year is the best time of the year to go outside, as long as it’s clear and you are warm, to look up and enjoy the view of the Milky Way as the bright centre around Scorpius and Sagittarius rises in the East and passes overhead.

As we head toward the longest night of the year, the winter solstice, clearly you’ve noticed it’s cold. If you’re going outside to look at the stars, you will need some supplies. The obvious ones are a blankie to sit on so you don’t get wet. A red torch for the star map, this podcast as your celestial guide and perhaps a cup of tea or a hot Milo.

What’s really important is that you find yourself a vantage point, somewhere where you’ve got a clear view to all four cardinal directions on the horizon, North, East, South and West. I know that sounds obvious, but many of us live next to big buildings, trees, hills, in valleys – and that can severely limit what we see and enjoy.

You’ll also need, some would argue, the second most powerful tool in the Universe after mathematics, and that is imagination. When you look at the patterns in the sky, some of them are obvious, many are not…Imagination will unlock the patterns and bring the stories alive.
So we’re warm, we’ve got supplies. Are you ready to go?

Wait for sunset, then a little bit longer, and a little bit longer, until it’s relatively dark. A slight hint of twilight in the West is okay, and that’s a good thing, because that will help you orient yourself and get the right positions.

To begin I want you to turn to an azimuth of 270 degrees. Azimuth? Let’s run through that very quickly. Astronomers like a regular defined way to find positions of objects in the sky. Of course, we could say, “Over there, by the tree, to the left,” or “Up a bit”. But unless you’ve got the same reference point, that simply doesn’t work. So you need a universal way of doing it.

We’re going to use azimuth, measured in degrees starting due north and moving in a clockwise direction as seen from above. Have you got it? Good. North is therefore zero degrees azimuth.

Turn to your right a quarter of a turn. You should be facing east; it has an azimuth of 90 degrees East of North. Do another quarter turn. You should be facing south, an azimuth of 180 degrees. Turn to your right one more quarter turn; you’re now facing west, an azimuth of 270 degrees.

That’s easy. How about upwards from the horizon? Well, directly overhead at zenith is 90 degrees. Halfway up, 45 degrees. But the first object I want you to have a look at is an azimuth of 270. OK, good, we’re facing west. But 20 degrees above the horizon? How can you do that?

Simply hold out your hand at arm’s length as far as you can stretch. Hold out a pinkie. Now that pinkie measured against the sky will be 1 degree or twice the size of the full moon. Now clench your fist. That’s 10 degrees against the sky. Lastly spread your hand from pinkie tip to thumb tip for about 20 degrees, and it doesn’t matter how old you are, how tall, how short, whatever. It’s all roughly in proportion.

Look west, one hand span above the horizon. If it’s now about 6pm you should be looking for the brightest star in the night sky. One of his names, Warepil. Don’t forget that people from all around the world have different names for different objects and therefore this is a great time to point out that the oldest star watchers on this planet are the Indigenous peoples of Australia. To the people of North-Western Victoria, the Boorong clan of the Wergaia language group, this star is an Elder of the group that we now refer to as the Nurrumbunguttia or ‘old spirits’. Warring or the Milky Way is the smoke from their campfires after they travelled into the sky. To other Aboriginal communities including the Kamilaroi and Euahlayi from North Western NSW the Milky Way is Warrumbul a river.

Let’s get back to that bright star Warepil because to many of us it’s more commonly known as Sirius the Dog Star, the brightest star in the night sky. This star does not look as bright as you may have seen it some months ago because it’s getting very low in the Western sky. So, it’s not a good time to see it but it does make a good starting signpost. And here’s a real curiosity, next month you can see Sirius setting in the West after sunset then see it rise before the Sun the next morning, welcome to the curiosities of spherical geometry and the inclination of the ecliptic but that’s another story.

Sirius is 8.6 light years away, about twice the mass of the Sun, nearly twice as wide and about 25 brighter.

By the way, a light year is the distance that light travels in one year in the vacuum of space. It’s a long, long way. For those of you that like numbers, its 9.4607×1015 metres or 9.5 thousand billion kilometres, both of which seem meaningless to me. It’s a long way but don’t take my word for it try this. It’s 300,000 kilometres per second in the vacuum of space. Multiply that by 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, and 365 days in a year. This will give you the distance that light travels in one light year, in the vacuum of space.

If Sirius is 8.6 light years away, that means we see it – as it was 8.6 years ago. You’re looking back in time and Sirius is a relatively close star, but for other objects, goodness me you’re looking back so far, you’re seeing them as they were at the time of the dinosaurs and beyond! Sirius, setting in the West, brightest star in the constellation of Canis Major the big dog.

Constellation, you’ll hear me mention this a few times. A constellation is simply an area in the sky something like a like a sky suburb, a signpost, a group of stars that helps us find our way. They’ve been used for a long, long time. We now have 88 of them officially but for some their origins possibly go back maybe 6,000 years or longer.

By the way, the Egyptians used to look at Sirius and work out the length of the year. From many many years of observation, they were able to work out, on average that the length of the years to be 365.25 days which is just an error of 11minutes to what we accept now for the tropical year. Very impressive considering how long ago they did that.

Let’s get back to Sirius. We’re going to say farewell for the time being. Turn to your right ever so slightly so that you’re heading toward the North-West. You should be able to see another reasonably bright star close to the horizon. That star is called Procyon or Proc-y-on. It’s the brightest star in another group of stars called Canis Minor smaller of the two hunting dogs.

Canis Major and Canis Minor they are the dogs that used to go with Orion the mighty hunter. He’s already well and truly set in the West, and we won’t see him for several more months in the evening sky.

Continue now towards the North-West a little bit more. You’re going to pass through the faintest of all the Zodiac constellations – that is, the path of the animals that most of us are familiar with, our birthday star signs if you like.

This particular constellation is really, really hard to see at the best of times. Trying to see Cancer right now? Forget it. I don’t think you’ve got much of a chance which is a shame. It’s an interesting group of stars because the picture is so old.

It is a crab that walks or slides sideways. It used to be important to the people of Mesopotamia thousands of years ago, maybe back as far as 4,000 BCE. This was the part of the sky that the summer solstice for the Northern Hemisphere used to occur in, but no longer. The Earth does a rather unusual wobble. It takes 26,000 years to wobble through the cycle once, which we call the precession of the equinoxes. It is caused by the gravitational dance between the Sun, Earth and Moon.

Towards the North North-West, a little bit more to your right, at an azimuth of roughly 320 degrees and an altitude of about 30 degrees which is one hand span and once clenched fist up, you’ll see a group of stars that with a little imagination, or perhaps a lot, you may be able to see an upside down question mark. Can you see it? You might need the map. Look for the question mark which is part of a figure that looks like a cat. What you’re looking for is perhaps one of the oldest of all the constellations. Leo the lion.

The brightest star that you should be able to see at this particular point as I mentioned, about 30-35 degrees above the horizon, is the little king, Regulus. It’s a star that’s about 79 light years away, so again you’re looking it now as it was 79 years ago. You’re looking back into time.

In the distant past some knew this star as the second of the four Royal Stars. Thousands of years ago, for the region near Mesopotamia, this star, Regulus, was seen as the brightest star near the point in the sky known or marked by the summer solstice. It was actually in nearby Cancer the crab but that doesn’t have any bright stars. This was the nearest bright star.

They used this star as a celestial marker and here we have one of the key uses of the stars across the planet and across cultures. A marker of place and to keep track of time. They called it a Royal Star. Of course, it’s no longer a marker, because the solstice and the equinoxes have moved, but historically, this star was important as was the constellation of Leo which we know is old. It was mentioned in the 8th century BCE by the poet Homer in his fabulous poem, the ‘Odyssey’. It’s another one of those constellations in what we call the zodiac, the path of the animals.

We also know the astronomer Claudius Ptolemy looked at this group of stars. He was a Greek who lived in Egypt’s Alexandria Egypt, around about 150 CE. He included it in his book, the ‘Almagest’, where he listed 48 constellations. Ever since then, we’ve used those and tagged on a few extras to come up with 88 that we have now.

As we leave Leo the lion and head up to the next of the zodiacs Virgo and its neighbour Corus both are rich with small faint but visible galaxies though finding them is a little beyond our scope here and you would need a good telescope of at least a 100mm in diameter to see them.

From Corvus which to me looks a little like a shopping trolley if you play join the dots, go back down a little bit towards the constellation of Virgo with its one bright star, the 15th brightest in the night sky, called Spica. This star is about 260 light years away. It’s certainly bluish white. It’s quiet dazzling. It’s about 10 times the mass of the Sun and 7 times its diameter. It’s a very hot, bright star.

You’re in the constellation of Virgo. This is the home of…at the moment, I should say, because I want to re-emphasize that things change… the home of the Autumnal equinox, but that’s a northern hemisphere event.

For us in the south it’s the home of the spring equinox. Until the year 2020, the spring equinox will occur on the 23rd of September. A quick refresher? That’s when the Sun crosses the celestial equator from the northern hemisphere, back into the Southern Hemisphere, heralding the start of spring in the south.

Virgo, goddess of justice. To the ancient Greeks, she was the goddess of the harvest, as well as justice. She would use her scales to weigh good and evil deeds. Legend says that she became so disenchanted with our behaviour that she threw away the scales and returned to her home in the sky.

To the ancient Egyptians, she was the Goddess Isis, who formed the Milky Way by dropping heads of wheat across the sky. There are so many stories about the stars at night and I love them all.

Leaving Virgo high in the north we now start to head towards the Eastern sky towards the next zodiacs and with this one I must talk about with a heavy heart. This group of stars was briefly associated with Julius Caesar. It showed Julius Caesar holding the scales of justice but this was dropped. In more modern Arabic culture, apparently it is not correct to draw a representation of a person. So, on many star maps, the figure of Julius Caesar holding the scales was dropped and it returned to the older group of stars, simply the Scales of Justice.

To the ancient Egyptians, these were the scales that would measure your heart after you had died and that’s where the expression ‘a heavy heart’ comes from. If your heart was heavy with bad deeds, then you weren’t in for a good time in the afterlife, but if not, you’re ready to pass through to the afterlife with safety.

It’s incredible how many expressions we have today that can be traced back to cultures from thousands upon thousands of years ago.

This group of star is quite clearly Libra the Scales. That is the only one of the zodiacs which is not a living animal. It’s not particularly noteworthy apart from the fact that at one stage, it was also associated with the next zodiac along, Scorpius.

Libra while not bright does have stars with some rather cool names. Roughly 40-50 degrees above the horizon, we have at the moment, Zubenelgenubi, the Arabic name (I might not have pronounced it correctly), which means the Southern claw of the scorpion. Zubeneschamali, roughly 35-45 degrees above the horizon, meaning the Northern claw of the scorpion, and Zubenalakrab simply meaning scorpion’s claw.

Those three stars are amongst the brightest stars in that constellation, there’s not much else there so let’s continue down towards the East and galactic central near Scorpius which is coming up high enough for us at the moment to have a look at. Depending on what time you’ve started, you may not be able to see it all.

As the night goes on, you will see more and more of this group of stars that looks like a scorpion, if you use a little bit of imagination, or perhaps an old fashioned ice pick. All sorts of different representations have been made.

There should be one clearly visible star that is slightly reddish. It’s not traffic light red. It’s not ruby red. It’s more of a golden orange hue. This star, because of the fact that the planet Mars goes past relatively close by every 780 days is called the Rival of Mars, anti-Mars, anti-Aries, Antares.

It is the brightest star in the constellation of Scorpius and is its heart. By the way, it’s not ‘Scorpio’. That’s its astrological name. For us astronomers: Scorpius. This star is about 550 light years away. It’s about 15 times the mass of the Sun and 800 times its diameter.

From Earth all these stars we see look like little points of light, but when we start to consider their size the Universe is enormously big and some of the objects in it, wow – huge!

If you have a look at Antares from a dark location on a moonless night when it’s up a little bit higher you may be able to see less than one degree away, or the width of one pinkie held at arm’s length, a little fluffy lump of light. That’s what we call a globular cluster.

It’s the fourth object in the Messier Catalogue, so it’s simply called M4. It’s a group of very old stars tightly packed together. It is well worth a look even through a small pair of binoculars. It’s reasonably close by at about 7200 light years away and is thought to be about 12 billion years old!

Continue along toward the tail of Scorpius, there’re two other little clusters up there but very different to M4. What we’re looking for here are young clusters, M6, the Butterfly Cluster of about 80 stars, they’re less than 100 million years old. In stellar terms, they’re very young indeed. There’s another group called M7. Both of these open clusters are young, there’s not very many of them, they’re relatively close by. Globular clusters like M4 are old, lots of them jammed together and they’re typically further than open clusters.

If your view towards the South-East is clear enough and dark enough and you’ve waited long enough as we’ve been doing this rather long tour of the June night sky, you may start to be able to see a group of stars that looks a bit like a teapot.

It is Sagittarius, the Archer, half man, half horse with a bow and arrow and the arrow pointing at the heart of Scorpius or the star Antares. Good luck trying to see all of that one.

The intriguing thing about this part of the sky is that it’s the home to the centre of the Milky Way, Via Lactea, by milk, our galaxy. Roughly 26,000 light years away, in this direction near the spout of the teapot. What lurks at the centre of the Milky Way? In fact, what lurks at the centre of most galaxies? Quite probably a black hole. In this part of the sky we have a black hole that is about four million times the mass of the Sun called Sagittarius A* (pronounced Sagittarius-A-star). You can’t actually ever see it but wait a little bit longer until it Sagittarius is a little higher as it is a beautiful part of the sky to look at.

Well, now that you’re facing East, I want you to turn towards your right. That means we’re heading towards the South. Go around towards the South and you’re looking for what is the smallest and perhaps the most famous and beautiful of all 88 constellations.

Yes, I’m somewhat biased. From here in the Southern hemisphere we have the best view of the Milky Way as the Earth is leaning to one side by 23 and a half degrees. That means we get the best of view of the Milky Way as it passes overhead and what we are looking for here is a small, bright constellation, Crux though most of us call it the Southern Cross. Fairly high up, roughly 60 degrees, so that’s three hand spans, you should be able to see that traditional beautiful cross of stars. Not everyone sees it that way.

Over in New Zealand, the Maori say it is Te Punga, a boat anchor. To the Pitjantjatjara of central Australia, it represents the footprint of a mighty eagle and to others including the Kamilaroi and Euahlayi from Northern NSW it represents the eyes of the first person to die and the Yowie that carried his body into the sky inside the hollow of a tree. The two nearby pointers are cockatoos chasing their tree.

There are many different stories about the Southern Cross and stars in general from different communities. Please remember that there is not a single Indigenous culture, there are hundreds of communities across this land and Torres Strait and I am privileged to know just a little about some of them. Thank you to my tutors.

Did you know the Southern Cross at any time of the night and year can help you find direction? If you draw a line, and imaginary line in the sky from the top of the cross through the bottom and multiply that by four and a half times its length, you come to what is a fairly empty part of the sky.

Well, it’s not that empty. There is a star there, unfortunately at magnitude 5.4, that’s a way we measure star brightness – that means the majority of people simply can’t see it. If you’ve got very good eyesight away from the city when there’s no Moon, you might be able see it. It’s a star Sigma Octantis and that’s our South star in the sky. From there, simply drop straight down to the ground and there you have south.

One of the most important uses of the stars for thousands of years has been to work out direction for navigation. If you face south then directly behind you – North. To the left where the stars come up, East. Where the stars go down to your right, west.

Look at the Southern Cross, high in the sky. Starting at the bottom with Alpha Crucis or A-Crux go in a clockwise direction to the next one, Beta Crucis, if you have a small telescope or pair of binoculars, centre on that star. But you need to have it on tripod to make it nice and steady. Look at that star Beta Crucis. Right next door to it, in fact snuggled up against it, sometimes lost in the glare is what we call DY Crucis. Now DY Crucis is not a particularly great or interesting name. Recently however it’s been renamed by an Australian as Ruby Crucis. You will see this as perhaps the reddest star in the night sky. We call it a carbon star. It’s a very old star as far as stars go. Its atmosphere is very rich in carbon. Not so much in oxygen. As a result it takes on this ruby red appearance. It’s hard to see but well worth a look but remember you can’t see it with the naked eye, you do need a telescope or a very good pair of binoculars.

If you’ve also got Beta Crucis in the centre of the eyepiece of your binoculars or telescope, scan a little bit further away and look for an object called NGC 4755. NGC well that simply means the New General Catalogue object number 4755. Most consider the Pleiades or M45 to be the best open cluster and this to be the second best. It’s roughly about a hundred stars. They’re about 6,000 light-years away, and through binoculars or a small telescope, you may even notice a few of the stars that takes on a bit of colour. Most are whitish. Some have a whitish-blue hue to them. But one of them is clearly orange-red.

To one very famous astronomer, Sir John Hershel a few hundred years ago he looked at this and made a note in his diary, “This looks like a fine piece of jewellery laying out on velvet.” Ever since then, we’ve referred to this group of baby stars as the Jewel Box. It’s well worth a look. It’s very pretty.

Open clusters like this are pretty much the closest thing we have to a controlled stellar environment. They’ve been formed from the same cloud of gas and dust so they have the same chemical composition. They’re about the same age and about the same distance. The only variable is that of mass and that’s a very important one.

Remember I mentioned a moment ago one of the stars is slightly orange-red? For such a young star of around 14 million years or so this means it’s big and it’s dying. It will probably explode soon as a supernova. We don’t know when. It’s possibly got millions but that’s about it, and then…BANG!

Snuggled up against the Southern Cross is a dark region of the sky that we commonly call the Coal sack. Some Indigenous communities look at dark patches in the sky and use those to illustrate an idea or a story. Most of us look at the brighter the dots, the bright regions, but here you have a dark patch against the Milky Way that with a little bit of imagination looks like an emu.

The head with its beak is up against the Southern Cross. Its long neck passes back through Centaurus towards Scorpius where you’ll be able to see the body of an emu which is quite chunky. You might need a picture to see it but there are plenty of them available on the Internet. Once you’ve seen it, you’ll never miss it again.

Going back to the sky and towards the Southern Cross you’ll be able to see the famous Pointers, Alpha and Beta Centauri. They are the two brightest stars in the constellation of Chiron the Centaur who was a very kind old teacher. In fact he was the teacher according to some legends, of Hercules, Jason and Achilles.

But the two bright stars that just I’ve mentioned represent his front feet. Seeing the body of the centaur is pretty tough so you’ll need a good imagination and perhaps a star chart to see that one.

Alpha Centauri is the closest star to us after the Sun at 4.3 light years away. Through a good pair of binoculars or small telescope, you’ll actually see that it’s two stars but they are getting harder to split as their gravitational dance of 80 years around each other is currently bringing them close together as we see them.

Quite close by, still in the constellation of Centaurus we have perhaps one of the finest objects in the night sky that I think you can see.

It’s just visible to the naked eye under ideal conditions but through any optical aid, you’ll be able to see NGC 5139, or Omega Centauri. It was discovered by Edmund Halley in 1677. It’s roughly a million stars grouped together in what we call a globular cluster. Much, much better than M4 that I mentioned earlier in Scorpius. It’s about 16,000 light years away. The stars are so close together that were in the cluster the average separation that you would be able to see is 0.1 of a light year, but in our region of the Milky Way the stars on average are about 4 light years from one another.

It’s a very densely packed region of the sky. And only recently some ideas have come about that this in fact the core of an old galaxy that is now merging with our galaxy, the Milky Way. Omega Centauri is one of the finest objects you can see through a telescope, but again, you need to get away from the polluted skies and preferably when there’s no Moon.

From high in the South, where we’re looking at the moment around the constellation of the Southern Cross and Centaurus, I want you to turn toward your right, so we’re heading towards the South west.

We’re looking into what used to be the largest of all constellations, Argo Navis, the ship that carried Jason and the Argonauts in search of the Golden Fleece. Yet another one of these stories from the Northern Hemisphere.

That constellation was deemed too big, so astronomers broke it up into smaller groups or constellations. Carina the keel, Vela the sails, Puppis the deck, Pyxis the compass. The whole region is absolutely perfect for viewing with binoculars or a small telescope.

There are so many things that we can see as we go along this part of the sky. Move from the Southern Cross, and just below it and to your right a little bit, you may be able to see a faint group of stars that makes up a long skinny cross. That’s what we call an asterism, or a false constellation.

That’s a group of stars that we often refer to as the Diamond Cross and yet again you may need the map to help. Just above the Diamond Cross scan for the Carina Nebula. It’s only just visible to the naked eye under good conditions. It’s a cloud of hydrogen and helium, the two most abundant elements in the Universe.

What you’re looking at is the birthplace of stars and soon the death of at least one. This cloud of gas and dust is being bathed in ultraviolet radiation from young hot stars within it, and they’re effectively lighting it up. Within the heart of this cloud there is one star called Eta Carinae. Eta Carinae is what we call a cataclysmic variable star. It’s a star at the end of its life. In the 1840s it started to brighten. By 1843, it got so bright, it was the second brightest star in the night sky and the Boorong clan of the Wergaia language group in Victoria that I’ve mentioned noticed it too. They called it Collowgullouric Wah, meaning the wife of Wah, the second brightest star in the night sky, which is Canopus in the constellation of Carina the keel and I’ll get to that one in a moment.

This star which may be part of a binary system is dying. We’re seeing it in its final death throes. In 1843 it shed more mass than our Sun. That matter is now obscuring the star, making it harder to see. But shortly, very shortly indeed it can do one thing… (pop) explode as a Type II supernova. Look, it’s not going to happen today, but it might. It might happen tomorrow, a thousand years or a million years, but if you’re a betting person and you want to take a bet on the most likely star to explode during your lifetime, this is it.
By the way, don’t worry about it. It cannot possibly hurt us. It’s way too far away. Collowgullouric Wah, or Eta Carinae, is simply a beautiful object to look at, from this distance of between 7-8,000light years.

As we go around towards the South-West, getting low, about 20-30 degrees or 1 outstretched hand and one fist above the South-Western horizon we have the second brightest star in the night sky, Canopus, it is the brightest in the constellation of Carina the keel. It’s 310 light years away, 9 times the mass of the Sun, and 71 times its diameter, so it’s a very big star. Canopus, or Wah to the Boorong of Victoria is the brother of Sirius, or Warepil the brightest star in the night sky and if you look a little further to the West you should see how far it has dropped since the start of our tour. Some fisherman from Japan used to call this star Nagai-ki or long life star as its beauty and brightness would bring joy and was thought to extend life of those that sailed south from Japan.

Special events for the month of June 2017 and let’s start with the Moon.

The First quarter is at 10:42pm on Thursday the 1st. The Full Moon at 11:10pm on Friday the 9th of June. Last quarter is at 9:33pm on Saturday the 17th and New Moon is at 12:31pm on Saturday the 24th June.

The Winter solstice occurs in the constellation of Taurus the bull at 2:24pm on Wednesday the 21st of June. The winter solstice is when the Sun has reached it most Northerly point in the sky, as we see it, and starts to move back toward the equator and the Southern hemisphere.

Jupiter the giant of our Solar System rules the night sky. On the 4 June the gibbous Moon is below and to the right of Jupiter with both in Virgo.

Saturn starts the month in the thirteenth zodiac star sign Ophiuchus the Serpent bearer and on the 9th June the Full Moon is above and to the left. The next night the waning gibbous Moon will be directly under Saturn in Sagittarius.

The 15th of June marks Saturn at opposition meaning it is directly opposite the Sun but what does that mean? Quite simply Saturn will be visible all night, it will be at its highest point around midnight and is the brightest and biggest it will be all year. Do you need another excuse to go to Sydney Observatory and see it through their awesome telescopes?
Saturn will take your breath away, of that I am sure 🙂

The morning sky is lit by the brilliant planet Venus in the North East. It starts the month in Aries before moving in Pisces and ending in Taurus the bull. On the morning of the winter solstice the thin crescent Moon is above and to the right of Venus.
Speedy little Mercury is only visible in the first week and is the brightest object below Venus in Aries ahead of sunrise. You’ll need good weather and a clear easterly view to catch him.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of what’s visible in the Southern sky for the month of June 2017. I know it’s been a long trek but there’s just so much up there to see at this time of year.

You can find our monthly sky guide podcast on iTunes. If you want more detailed sky maps, information about sunrise and sunset, Moon and tidal information why not purchase a copy of our book the ‘Australasian Sky Guide’ by Dr Nick Lomb, available from Sydney Observatory or the Powerhouse Museum shop and via our website.

It’s only $16.95 if you come into us to get it. There is an additional charge for postage and handling if you do it online. Our website is www.maas.museum then follow the link to Sydney Observatory. Our web page has a galaxy of information about astronomy and visiting Sydney Observatory to see through our telescopes, visit our theatre and see the spectacular Sydney Planetarium.

We have programs available for all ages and you can also engage with us on Facebook and follow our tweets on Twitter @sydneyobs.

My name is Geoffrey Wyatt. I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide and we’ll see you again soon.

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6 responses to “June 2017 night sky guide

  • Hi Geoffrey

    Very nice and detailed article, thank you very much. You mentioned that the new moon is on Saturday 24th June at 12:31 pm. Will it be visible on the same evening? Or is it only possible to sight it the next evening on 25th June? I need to plan my Eid holiday accordingly.

  • I’m here in the Northeast of Brasil (Pernambuco)
    I always read/download your material
    … and make the necessary adjustments
    for this neck of the woods.
    Much Thanks!

    • Thank you Darren for the message. It’s always nice to know that people enjoy the guides. If anyone has feedback we would love to know as that’s how we can improve the products.
      Regards
      Geoff of the June Podcast 🙂

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