Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of June 2021
The bright clusters and nebulae of the night sky are often named for flowers or insects. Though its wingspan covers over 3 light-years, Planetary Nebula C69 (NGC 6302), the Butterfly Nebula, is no exception. With an estimated surface temperature of about 250,000 degrees Celsius, the dying central star of this particular planetary nebula has become exceptionally hot, shining brightly in ultraviolet light but hidden from direct view by a dense torus of dust. This sharp close-up of the dying star's nebula was recorded in 2009 by the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3, and is presented here in reprocessed colors. Cutting across a bright cavity of ionized gas, the dust torus surrounding the central star is near the center of this view, almost edge-on to the line-of-sight. Molecular hydrogen has been detected in the hot star's dusty cosmic shroud. NGC 6302 lies about 4000 light-years away in the constellation of the Scorpius. [Video and Content Credits: NASA, JPL – Caltech, and the Office of Public Outreach – STScI] [Image Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble SM4 ERO Team, Francesco Antonucci)]
Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of June 2021
Welcome to the night sky report for June 2021 -- Your guide to the constellations, deep sky objects, planets, and celestial events that are observable during the month. Though the nights are shorter in June, they are filled with fine sights. Look for the Hercules constellation, which will lead you to a globular star cluster with hundreds of thousands of densely packed stars. You can also spot Draco the dragon, which will point you to the Cat’s Eye Nebula. Catch Saturn and Jupiter in the morning and the constellation Scorpius after dark. Plus skywatchers in the Northeast US, Eastern Canada, and Northern Europe can see a partial solar eclipse on June 10th.
The balmy nights of June are short, but filled with fine sights for the backyard stargazer. Look for the Big Dipper riding high in the northwest. Its handle points toward Arcturus: the fourth-brightest star in the night sky. Arcturus is part of the contellation Bootes, the herdsman.
Bootes also contains a double star called Epsilon Bootes, or Izar. The striking pair of stars appears yellow-orange and bluish in a modest telescope.
To the left of Bootes sits a semicircle of stars known as Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown.
Next to Corona Borealis, we find the dim constellation of a bright hero: Hercules, the strongman of
Greek mythology. Near the center of the constellation is a trapezoid known as the Keystone. The Keystone is essential to finding the Great Star Cluster in Hercules, a globular star cluster containing hundreds of thousands of densely packed stars.
Globular star clusters contain among the oldest stars in our galaxy. All of the stars within a globular cluster formed around the same time. With NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, we can observe these old stars individually and compare how stars of different masses change as they age.
Just outside the Keystone sits another globular cluster: M92. M92 is more distant than the Hercules Cluster, and looks smaller and fainter through a telescope. An image from Hubble shows many bright, old red giant stars in its crowded core.
North of Hercules, breathing fire on his feet, lays Draco the dragon. Draco’s long body curls around the Little Dipper. Located along the dragon’s coils is NGC 6543—the Cat’s Eye Nebula, a cloud of expanding and glowing gas from a dying star.
On summer evenings, you may notice a curved grouping of stars crawling across the southern sky, among them a brilliant red beacon. This is the constellation Scorpius, the scorpion, and beginning in June, it's the prime time to look for it.
This grouping of stars has been thought of as having the shape of a scorpion going back to ancient times in the Mediterranean and Middle East. In the Greek myth, the scorpion's deadly sting brought down the great hunter Orion, and that's why – the story goes – we find them on opposite sides of the sky today.
This pattern of stars also been seen as part of a great dragon, in China, and the fish hook of the demigod Maui in Hawaii. That fish-hook shape also forms the tail of the scorpion.
At the beginning of June, if you're in the northern hemisphere, the scorpion's tail might still be below the horizon for you, early in the evening. It rises over the first few hours after dark. But by the end of the month, the scorpion's tail will be above the horizon after sunset for most stargazers.
That bright, beacon-like star in Scorpius is Antares, which is a huge red giant star, and one of the brightest in the sky. It forms the blazing heart of the scorpion. So look toward the south and use Antares as your guide to find the constellation Scorpius.
Following last month's total lunar eclipse, June brings us a solar eclipse. On June 10th, the Moon will slip briefly between Earth and the Sun, partially obscuring our local star from view.
Whereas May's lunar eclipse was best viewed around the Pacific, this month's solar eclipse will be a treat for those in the northeast US, Eastern Canada, and Northern Europe. For US viewers, this is a sunrise event, with the Moon already appearing to have taken a bite out of the Sun as it's rising. So you'll want to find a clear view toward the eastern horizon to observe it. Those farther to the north and east will see more of the Sun obscured by the Moon. For those in northern Europe, it's more of a lunchtime eclipse.
Finally this month, you'll remember back in December, when Jupiter and Saturn had their incredibly close meet-up in the sky. In the run-up to that "Great Conjunction," Jupiter led Saturn across the sky all through 2020. Well, 6 months later, the pair continues to move farther apart, and now Saturn has the lead position as the two planets rise and set. Look for them in the east after midnight or toward the south at dawn.
And for more Jupiter excitement in June, NASA's Juno spacecraft is making its next close flyby over Jupiter on June 8th, and this time it will also make a low-altitude flyby over the planet-sized, icy moon Ganymede on June 7th. This is the first of several planned flybys of the Jovian moons by Juno, over the next couple of years that include encounters with icy Europa and volcanic Io!
Thursday morning, June 10, 2021, at 6:53 a.m. EDT, will be the new Moon, when the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun. As described above, the Moon will eclipse the Sun. Remember that it is unsafe to look directly at the Sun (unless you have special eclipse glasses to protect your eyes).
Parts of Canada, Greenland, the Arctic Ocean, and Siberia will see an annular eclipse. For much of the rest of northeastern North America, Greenland, Northern Europe, and northern Asia, this will be a partial eclipse. From the Washington, D.C. area, the Moon will be blocking about 80% of the left side of the Sun as they rise together in the east-northeast at 5:42 a.m., causing the Sun to appear as a crescent. As the pair rises higher in the sky, the silhouette of the Moon will gradually shift off the Sun to the lower left, allowing more of the Sun to show until the eclipse ends at around 6:29 a.m., with the Sun about 7 degrees above the horizon in the east-northeast.
On the evening of June 10th, the planet Mercury will be passing between Earth and Sun as seen from Earth – this is called inferior conjunction. Mercury will be shifting from the evening sky to the morning sky and will begin emerging from the glow of dawn on the eastern horizon after about June 20.
Beginning the morning of Sunday, June 20, 2021, the planet Mercury will begin appearing above the horizon about 30 minutes before sunrise (approximately when it may start being visible in the glow of dawn). Mercury will not start appearing above the horizon at the time morning twilight begins until July 1.
On Monday evening, June 21, 2021, the bright planet Venus (as the Evening Star) and the bright star Pollux will appear at their closest to each other, a little over 5 degrees apart. The pair will appear near each other during the latter part of June.
The night sky is always a celestial showcase. Explore its wonders from your own backyard.
The following Deep Sky Objects are found in constellations that peak during the month. Some can be viewed with a small telescope, but the majority will require a moderate to large telescope. The following is adapted from my personal viewing list: "The Guy Pirro 777 Best and Brightest Deep Sky Objects."
NGC 5248 Galaxy C45, Herschel 400 H34-1
NGC 5466 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H9-6
NGC 5557 Galaxy Herschel 400 H99-1
NGC 5676 Galaxy Herschel 400 H189-1
- NGC 5660 Galaxy Paired with H189-1
NGC 5689 Galaxy Herschel 400 H188-1
Constellation: Corona Borealis
NGC 3147 Galaxy Herschel 400 H79-1
NGC 4125 Galaxy P26
- NGC 4121 Galaxy Paired with P26
NGC 4236 Galaxy C3
NGC 5866 Galaxy M102, Herschel 400 H215-1
NGC 5906 Galaxy Herschel 400 H759-2
NGC 5982 Galaxy Herschel 400 H764-2
NGC 6503 Galaxy P80
NGC 6543 Planetary Nebula C6, Herschel 400 H37-4 Cat’s Eye Nebula
NGC 6832 Open Cluster P27
IC 4593 Planetary Nebula P158 White Eyed Pea Nebula
NGC 6205 Globular Cluster M13 Great Hercules Cluster
NGC 6207 Galaxy Herschel 400 H701-2
NGC 6210 Planetary Nebula P34
NGC 6229 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H50-4
NGC 6341 Globular Cluster M92
NGC 5897 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H19-6
IC 4634 Planetary Nebula P168
IC 4665 Open Cluster P36
NGC 6171 Globular Cluster M107, Herschel 400 H40-6
NGC 6218 Globular Cluster M12
NGC 6235 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H584-2
NGC 6254 Globular Cluster M10
NGC 6266 Globular Cluster M62
NGC 6273 Globular Cluster M19
NGC 6284 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H11-6
NGC 6287 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H195-2
NGC 6293 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H12-6
NGC 6304 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H147-1
NGC 6309 Planetary Nebula P236 Box Nebula
NGC 6316 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H45-1
NGC 6325 Globular Cluster P169
NGC 6333 Globular Cluster M9
NGC 6342 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H149-1
NGC 6355 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H46-1
NGC 6356 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H48-1
NGC 6366 Globular Cluster P37
NGC 6369 Planetary Nebula Herschel 400 H11-4 Little Ghost Nebula
NGC 6401 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H44-1
NGC 6402 Globular Cluster M14
NGC 6426 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H587-2
NGC 6517 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H199-2
NGC 6572 Planetary Nebula P38 Emerald Nebula
NGC 6633 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H72-8
NGC 6093 Globular Cluster M80
NGC 6121 Globular Cluster M4
NGC 6124 Open Cluster C75
NGC 6139 Globular Cluster P53
NGC 6144 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H10-6
NGC 6153 Planetary Nebula P189
NGC 6178 Open Cluster P111
NGC 6192 Open Cluster P190
NGC 6216 Open Cluster P210
NGC 6231 Open Cluster C76
NGC 6242 Open Cluster P54
NGC 6249 Open Cluster P191
NGC 6259 Open Cluster P112
NGC 6268 Open Cluster P192
NGC 6281 Open Cluster P55
NGC 6302 Planetary Nebula C69 Butterfly Nebula
NGC 6318 Open Cluster P249
NGC 6322 Open Cluster P56
NGC 6374 Open Cluster P193
NGC 6383 Open Cluster P57
NGC 6388 Globular Cluster P58
NGC 6396 Open Cluster P194
NGC 6400 Open Cluster P195
NGC 6404 Open Cluster P250
NGC 6405 Open Cluster M6 Butterfly Cluster
NGC 6416 Open Cluster P59
NGC 6425 Open Cluster P113
NGC 6441 Globular Cluster P114
NGC 6451 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H13-6
NGC 6453 Globular Cluster P115
NGC 6475 Open Cluster M7 Ptolemy Cluster
NGC 6496 Globular Cluster P60
Constellation: Serpens Caput
NGC 5904 Globular Cluster M5
NGC 6118 Galaxy Herschel 400 H402-2 Blinking Galaxy
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