Welcome to June, a glorious month filled with the sweet fragrance of flowers, BBQs, long days and short evenings. It's also the start of summer, offering those interested in gazing up at the night sky an opportunity to do so with little more than a blanket or lawn chair. Check out our list below for some highlights to catch up above this month. Wishing you clear evenings!
Comet V2 Johnson makes its closest approach (June 6)
Comet V2 Johnson will make its closest approach (0.812 AU distant) to Earth on June 6. (Photo: Dominique Dierick/flickr)
Discovered only in November 2015 by astronomer Jess Johnson, Comet V2 Johnson will make its closest approach on June 6. To spot it, Phys.org recommends picking up a pair of binoculars and looking 5 degrees above the bright -0.05 magnitude star Arcturus about 45 minutes after sunset. Comet V2 Johnson will appear as a fuzzy green dot in the Northern Hemisphere at least until mid-July.
Due to its hyperbolic orbit, Comet V2 Johnson will leave our solar system after this flyby. Catch it now before it's gone forever.
Arietids Meteor Shower (June 7-8)
The Arietid meteor shower, which peaks during the daylight hours, can still produce some beautiful shooting stars for early risers. (Photo: Robert Emperley/flickr)
With a peak display of more than 60 shooting stars each hour, the Arietids are one of the best meteor showers of the year. There's only one problem: they're nearly impossible to see. Unlike the Leonids or the Perseids, the Arietids are one of a few meteor showers each year that peak during the daylight hours.
Despite the sun obscuring much of the Arietids fiery display, there's still a chance to catch some before sunrise on the mornings of June 7 and 8. And if waking up early to see shooting stars is disagreeable, why not try hearing them? The Arietids are also known as a "radio shower" due to the way their intense speed (upwards of 75,000 mph) through Earth's atmosphere create whining radar echoes. According to NASA, you can listen to them burning up by using a simple ham radio.
The Strawberry Minimoon (June 9)
June's full moon is also the year's smallest, due to the point in its orbit that places it the furthest from the Earth. Known as apogee, the moon will be some 250,000 miles away from Earth, appearing up to 14 percent smaller and less luminous. Like other monthly lunar cycles, this moon is so-named by Native Americans for its timing with ripening strawberries. It's also known as the Green Corn Moon and the Honey Moon (due to the first spring crop of honey from hives across the Northern Hemisphere.)
A bright and full Saturn (June 15)
Saturn appears in the upper center of this photo, with an orange Mars shining bright to the right. Just below Saturn and to the right is the star Antares. (Photo: Glenn Marsch/flickr)
On the evening of June 15, Saturn will be at both its brightest and closest position to Earth. Known as opposition (because the planet will appear opposite the sun in our sky), Saturn's golden color will shine as bright as any of the brightest stars in the evening sky.
To spot it, look for it from dusk till dawn near the bright star Antares in the constellation Scorpio. While the other nearby stars will twinkle, Saturn's glow will be steady. To see the rings the Cassini spacecraft is currently diving through on its eventual collision course with the planet, grab a small telescope.
Summer Solstice (June 21)
Crowds greeting the summer solstice at Stonehenge in the U.K. (Photo: Stonehenge Stone Circle/flickr)
At 12:24 a.m. EST, the Northern Hemisphere will experiences its greatest tilt towards the sun and enjoy both its shortest night and longest day of the year. In the U.S., this means a sunrise around 5:27 a.m. and a sunset near 8:43 p.m. The official start to summer in the Northern Hemisphere, the event also marks the longest night of the year and start of winter for the Southern Hemisphere.
The event, however, is bittersweet as it marks the slow progression back towards winter and a loss of more than six hours of daylight by Dec. 21. In other words, get out there and enjoy this most festive, warm, and well-earned longest day of the year!
New Moon (June 24)
The arrival of the new moon on June 24 will provide dark skies for clear views of the heavens. (Photo: Coconino National Forest/flickr)
Despite June's short nights, the arrival of the new moon on June 24 will still present a wonderful (and warm) opportunity to sit outside and gaze up at the heavens. For some, those dark evenings will also be complemented with the arrival of beautiful firefly displays on the ground.
Bootids Meteor Shower (June 27)
The Bootids meteor shower on June 27 may only send a handful of shooting stars our way. (Photo: Kev Haworth Photography/flickr)
The end of June brings the return of the Bootids meteor shower, an annual event that (thankfully) can be enjoyed during the evening hours. Well, "enjoyed" may not be the right word, as the Bootids are notorious for having extremely weak displays, with as little as two to three shooting stars per hour. The reason they're worth mentioning at all is because some years, they've littered the sky with streaks of light.
On June 27, 1998, as many as 100 meteors per hour fell over the course of the seven-hour event. According to Spaceweather, similar outbursts occurred in 1916, 1921, and 1927. Could 2017 join that historic group? To give the Bootids a shot, look towards the constellation Bootes, which lies to the left of the Little Dipper.