All information presented here is taken from my 74 page book NightScenes 2016.
Click on the monthly image to get a larger high resolution view of the night sky set for 53° N (Horncastle, England) but is usable for the UK and Eire. All charts are set for the 1st of the month at 22:00 GMT (10pm), 23:00 BST during Summer Time and can be used on the other dates and times shown in each corner of the chart.
The visible planets & small worlds
For most charts see the buttons at the top for various planets etc.. Charts & images in the text can be clicked to give a larger view.
Jupiter continues to dominate the evening sky once darkness falls so make sure you take a look at it plus its four Galilean Moons (left). Back on April 7th Jupiter was in conjunction with, and north of, Chi Leonis and now its normal motion against the stars brings it back even closer to the star on June 10th. The view here at right shows Jupiter lies just 5.4 arc minutes south of Chi. Again look out for the Galilean moons but don't leave this too long as the planet and star set just before 2am!
The following late evening the almost half moon lies to their lower left at 11pm as an added bonus (left) whilst the chart also shows the position of chi Leonis. The positions of the Galilean moons are shown in the lower inset, note Europa is on Jupiter's disk and as it moves off then its shadow creeps onto the disk on the other side as an extra bonus if you have a telescope!
As we head into summer and the lighter nights we now have three major planets to view in the evenings. Along with the already discussed Jupiter, there is Mars and now Saturn joins them as it reaches opposition early in the month.
Mars was at opposition last month but was actually closest to the Earth on May 30th so for the time being it is still well placed to view but quite low in the south. Being close to earth its disk in a telescope is the best it can be for this opposition. Mars is still retrograding in Libra and on the 16th & 17th is joined by the moon above it. Mars ends retrograde motion on June 30th and so is stationary against the background stars that day before resuming normal motion. The chart at right shows a telescope view of Mars with North at top showing the change in disk size through the year so now is the time to view it at its best.
But it is now the time of Saturn which is a bit mixed if you like imaging the planet as it, like neighbouring Mars, is quite low in the sky even at its best. Saturn is at opposition on June 3rd shining at magnitude 0 and so is visible throughout the light nights of June becoming better placed for viewing in the evenings from now on. It appears to lie above Scorpius but actually spends the year in neighbouring Ophiuchus. Saturn lies very low along the ecliptic over the next few years so you view it through more of our atmosphere. However it can still be stunning and well worth taking a look. Binoculars such as 10x50 give a hint that it is not round due to the effect of the ring system but large binoculars will improve the view and a telescope brings the planet to life. If you do use a telescope then look out for the Cassini Division in the rings, note that the 'B' ring is brighter than the 'A' ring and see if you can spot the much fainter 'C' ring. On the planet the North Polar Hood can be quite dusky whilst there is also the Northern Belt on the disk. The image above left is the author's best ever image of Saturn taken on March 5th 2006 when the Southern hemisphere was tilted towards us but the view shows many of the features mentioned above.
Saturn has 62 moons but with a telescope there are around 4 to 8 that can be spotted with care. The brightest is Titan, second largest moon in the solar system (after Ganymede at Jupiter) and it can be spotted with a pair of 10x50 binoculars if they are attached to a sturdy and stable tripod. Titan takes ~16 days to complete one orbit around Saturn so using the chart and the table at left, look out for it as it makes its way around Saturn over the next few months. Look out for our own Moon on the 18th which is just a couple of days before Full when it will lie above Saturn with Antares and Scorpius to their lower right over in the south before midnight.
Meanwhile Neptune and now Uranus try to make an appearance in the light morning sky before it gets too bright. Although brighter than Neptune, Uranus is lower in the east and is quickly swamped by the twilight so use the almost Last Quarter Moon to find it on the 29th around 3am as depicted in the chart here. Neptune is worth tracking down as the Moon occults it on the morning of the 26th. However the disappearance occurs before the moon has risen and the reappearance is shortly after so it really needs a very clear, uncluttered eastern horizon. Our normal limits for occultation's mean for the Northern limit R ~ 00:54 BST and the Southern limit R ~ 00:33 BST and the chart above shows Neptune shortly after reappearing set for the mid UK with Lambda Aqr the star at the top.
Clear skies and happy sky watching.
The UK & Ireland Night Sky for 2016 AD
The Summer Solstice occurs on June 21st at 16:38 GMT (17:38 BST). Summer officially begins in the Northern Hemisphere whilst Winter begins in the Southern Hemisphere.
Webmaster © Paul L Money 2016
|Monthly Night Sky|
|Solar System Exploration|
|Northern Lights Flights|