Stargazing can be an incredibly humbling experience. Simply looking at the sky on any given night allows one to not only marvel at the vastness and splendor of our Universe, but also to peer back at the history of it.
Because it takes time for the light from an object to reach our eyes here on earth, the light from the stars above us every night is actually from the past. For the moon, it takes about 1.3 seconds for the light to reach earth, so we will always see the moon as it was 1.3 seconds ago. A random speck of light in the sky could be dozens, hundreds, if not thousands of light years away. For instance, Polaris, the North Star, is 323 light years from earth. Gazing upon it is seeing light that is older than the United States as a country.
Starting this summer, AY will be outlining the night sky in these easy to digest guides every month, highlighting the biggest and “brightest” celestial events to help better prepare you for stargazing activities; whether it is as simple as looking up when taking the dog outside, or as official as planning date night – we have you covered.
New Moon: June 3
First Quarter: June 10
Full Moon: June 17*
Third Quarter: June 25
*The full moon of June is often called the “Strawberry Moon,” named after the wild strawberries that begin ripening this time of year.
June is not known to be a month with many meteor showers, or “shooting stars.” However, there is a small annual shower that comes around this month called the Ophiuchids, named after the 11th largest constellation in the sky: Ophiuchus. The peak for the shower this year is Monday, June 10th. Since the moon is at First Quarter that night, the sky should be dark enough to see a handful of meteors per hour. Make sure to find a dark sky relatively free from city lights.
July will feature a much more prominent meteor shower, so make sure to come back next month for those details.
June 10: Jupiter at Opposition
The largest planet in our solar system will be in opposition to the sun on the night of June 10, which means that it will be at its closest point to the earth, and its face will be in full illumination. This is the best night to observe Jupiter in the sky – which will not be difficult, as it is always one of the brightest night sky objects. Jupiter can be found in the south-eastern sky every night this month.
June 23: Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation
This will be one of the best times of the year to view the closest rock to the sun, as it will shine very bright, and will sit at its highest point in our evening sky at this eastern elongation. Just after sunset, look to the west to find our scorched cousin.
The Central Arkansas Astronomical Society’s (CAAS) monthly star party is on Saturday, June 8, this month. The event is open to the public, and will last from 8:30 pm to 11 pm at Pinnacle Mountain State Park.
There will be telescopes available for use, and members of the Society will be there to serve as guides to the cosmos – assisting attendees in finding planets and other major celestial objects.
This a family friendly event, and a great opportunity for Arkansans of all ages to have an astronomical experience.
Famed astronomer, Phil Plait, is coming to Little Rock to speak in depth about planets beyond our solar system. Plait is one of the more recognizable faces in Astronomy these days, as he has made regular appearances on TV shows, like How the Universe Works and Space’s Deepest Secrets.
The event will be held at Central Arkansas Libary’s Ron Robinson Theater on the 15th, from 7 pm to 8:30 pm. The event is free and open to attend. CAAS will be there giving out 50th anniversary Apollo 11 backpacks, and Plait will be sticking around to sign books afterwards.
Deep Space Date Night
Since there is not a whole lot of meteor action in June, the best night to schedule an outer space themed date night is on Saturday, the 8th, in conjunction with the CAAS star party. Schedule dinner at Loca Luna to make it a truly selenological night.
The best stargazing results are always going to be under dark skies. So, if you can, find a place as far away from city lights as possible when checking out June’s night sky. Also, if you have not already, download an app to your phone that helps you find celestial objects and constellations in real time. Sky Guide and Night Sky are both available for free, and are extremely easy to use.