Find out what to go out and look at this month

Planets:

All the planets are in the night sky this month if you go outside and look to the east at 6 am. Mercury can be found very low in the morning sky throughout June in the constellation of Taurus (The Bull). It will reach its greatest elongation in the East on Thursday the 16th of June, and it’ll begin to make its way back towards the Sun before disappearing again in the Sun’s glare at the end of the month. Venus is up from Mercury in the early morning sky through June. Venus will start June in the constellation of Cetus (The Sea-Monster), before moving into the constellation of Taurus by the end of the month. Mars is located in June in the constellation of Pisces (The Fish) in the morning sky between Jupiter and Saturn.

Jupiter can be in the constellation of Pisces throughout June above Mars, and Saturn leads the alignment of the planets and can be found in the constellation of Capricornus (The Sea-Goat) throughout June. Uranus can still be found in the early morning in the constellation of Aries (The Ram) above Venus. Neptune is located in the constellation of Pisces, just up from Jupiter.

The planets in alignment on the 15/06/22 at 06:00 am. Image Credit: Stellarium
Mercury's greatest elongation in the East on the evening of the 16/04/2022. Image Credit: Stellarium
PlanetWhen It Rises Or Sets
MercuryAt the start of June, it rises at 06:00 am (AWST), and by the end of the month, it’ll rise at 05:56 am (AWST)
VenusAt the start of June, it rises at 04:12 am (AWST), and by the end of the month, it’ll rise at 05:00 am (AWST)
MarsAt the start of June, it rises at 01:59 am (AWST), and by the end of the month, it’ll rise at 01:42 am (AWST)
JupiterAt the start of June, it rises at 01:55 am (AWST), and by the end of the month, it’ll rise at 00:15 am (AWST)
SaturnAt the start of June, it rises at 10:47 pm (AWST), and by the end of the month, it’ll rise at 08:51 pm (AWST)
UranusAt the start of June, it rises at 05:13 am (AWST), and by the end of the month, it’ll rise at 03:25 am (AWST)
NeptuneAt the start of June, it rises at 01:13 am (AWST), and by the end of the month, it’ll rise at 11:16 pm (AWST)

Alignments, Conjunctions And Occultations:

Conjunctions involve objects in the Solar System, and more distant objects, such as a star. It’s an apparent phenomenon caused by the observer’s perspective where multiple objects that aren’t close together appear close in the sky.

In an occultation, an object passes across the line of sight between an observer and another object. A solar eclipse is an occultation of the Sun by the Moon.

  • 03/06/22 – Conjunction of The Moon, Castor and Pollux (Where to look)
  • 10/06/22 – Conjunction of The Moon and Spica (Where to look)
  • 12/06/22 – Conjunction of Venus and Uranus (Where to look)
  • 13/06/22 – Conjunction of The Moon and Antares (Where to look)
  • 19/06/22 – Conjunction of The Moon and Saturn (Where to look)
  • 20/06/22 – Alignment of The Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn (Where to look)
  • 22/06/22 – Conjunction of The Moon and Jupiter (Where to look)
  • 23/06/22 – Conjunction of The Moon and Mars, plus Mercury and Aldebaran (Where to look)
  • 24/06/22 – Alignment of The Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn (Where to look)
  • 26/06/22 – Conjunction of The Moon, Mercury, Venus and Aldebaran (Where to look)
  • 27/06/22 – Conjunction of The Moon, Mercury, Venus and Aldebaran (Where to look)

Astronomical Events This Month:

The Tau Herculids:
The Tau Herculids on the 31/05/22 at 10:00 pm. Image Credit: Stellarium

On the night of the 31st of May and the 1st of June, we may get to see a meteor storm here on Earth, and the strange thing is it’s due to a minor meteor shower called the Tau Herculids. Multiple studies are producing different answers to which debris stream the Earth will be going through that was left by Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3.

To understand why this could be an all or nothing meteor shower, we must go back to its discovery. Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 was discovered in 1930 at the Hamburg Observatory by astronomers Carl Schwassmann and Arthur Wachmann. The orbit of Comet 73P amazed the two astronomers as they discovered the comet was a short-period comet that orbits the Sun as once every 5.4 years, and its orbit was inclined just over 11 degrees relative to the plane of the ecliptic.

The many tails of Comet 73P. Image Credit and Copyright: Michael Jaeger

The plane of the ecliptic is where the planets orbit around the Sun, and this meant there was a good chance the comet would be a fantastic naked eye comet on its 31st of May 1930 passage when it was 9.2 million km from the Earth. Unfortunately, Comet 73P under-performed during the 1930 passage, and after that, it receded from view, not much more was seen of the comet until 1995, when it increased dramatically in brightness by 400-fold. Observations from the European Southern Observatory caught four separate fragments instead of one nucleus, and later observations by Hubble and the infrared Spitzer Space Telescope in 2006 added dozens more.

Hubble witnesses the 2006 fragmentation event. Image Credit and Copyright: NASA/HST/STScI

When comets travel close to the Sun, their tails lay down debris streams of dust shed during their inner solar system passage. If a planet like the Earth moves through these debris streams a meteor shower occurs. These debris streams evolve over time, due to the complex tug of the Sun and planets which pulls them into and out of the Earth’s path. Today we have amazing meteor showers like the Perseids for the northern hemisphere in August and then Geminids for the southern hemisphere in December, but there have been other showers like the Andromedids, which once caused a great storm in the late 19th century but have since fallen into obscurity.

The 1999 Leonid meteor storm. Image Credit: Filipa Rodrigues

Fast-forward to 2022, and astronomer Jérémie Vaubaillon working at the Institute for Celestial Mechanics and Computation of Ephemerides in Paris has said that this year’s encounter will be with debris streams from 1892 and 1897 passage laid down pre-discovery. Now, just how dense these streams are is anyone’s guess. But there are pair of studies, one by a Japanese team led by astronomer Shun Horii and another German team led by astronomer Hartwig Lüthen who both reached the same conclusion that the Earth will run headlong into the 1995 fragmentation stream this year. If the Earth does run headlong into the 1995 fragmentation, then a meteor storm where thousands of meteors should be seen per hour will occur in the pre-dawn hours of Tuesday the 31st of May. This places the radiant point high in the sky for Northern Hemisphere and the best viewing will be in North America.

For us here in Perth and Australia, it’s best to go out the night of the 31st of May and the 1st of June and look North, between 8:30 pm and 2:30 am. The shower takes its name from its 1930 radiant point which was in the Constellation of Hercules, but in modern times, the radiant point has drifted into the adjacent Constellation of Boötes (The Herdsman). Make sure you go out to a dark location like Lake Leschenaultia in Chidlow, Golden View Lookout at Mundaring Weir, Lake Clifton down passed Mandurah, or the central Wheatbelt, and give your eyes 10 or 15 minutes to get your night vision. The good news is the Moon won’t be in the sky, so it won’t be producing any light pollution.

The June Solstice:

The June Solstice occurs on the 21st of June at 5:13 pm (AWST), marking the beginning of astronomical winter for the southern hemisphere, and the start of summer for the northern hemisphere. This is an exact moment when the Sun’s declination equals 23.5 degrees south as seen from the Earth. The line of latitude where the Sun passes directly overhead during the June solstice is known as the Tropic of Cancer, although in modern times, the Sun is in the astronomical constellation of Gemini in mid-June, thanks to precession.

The June solstice means the southern rotational pole of the Earth is tipped away from the Sun and will now begin its long apparent journey northward again until December. The wobble of Earth’s axis known as the Precession of the Equinoxes takes about 26,000 years to complete one ‘wobble’. Live out an average 72-year life span, and the equinoctial points will have moved one degree (about twice the diameter of a Full Moon).

Equinoxes and Solstices. Image Copyright: timeanddate.com
The June Solstice. Image Credit: TimeandDate.com

Things To Look At This Month:

Omega Nebula:

The Omega Nebula is located in the Sagittarius constellation. This emission nebula is regarded as one of the brightest and most massive star-forming regions of the Milky Way. Within the nebula, the radiation from an open cluster of ~35 hot, young stars heats the surrounding gas to incandescence. There could be as many as 800 stars in the associated cluster.

The nebula was first discovered in 1745 and recorded by Charles Messier in 1764, and it’s so named because it appears like the Greek letter Omega. Alternatively, it may be seen as a horseshoe with a “tail” to one side giving it, perhaps, a swan’s neck appearance. It is also referred to as the Swan, Checkmark, Lobster and Horseshoe Nebula.

Omega Nebula on the 15/06/22 at 09:00 pm. Image Credit: Stellarium
M17 - Omega Nebula. Image Credit: Putman Mountain Observatory
Trifid And Lagoon Nebulas:

The Trifid Nebula (M20 & NGC 6514) and Lagoon Nebula (M8 & NGC 6523) can be found close together in the constellation of Sagittarius.

The Trifid Nebula is an emission (pink) and reflection (blue) nebula, with an open star cluster. The Trifid (Meaning “divided into three lobes”) comes from the three-pronged dark lanes (dark nebulae) through the nebula that blocks off the light behind. The nebula is 2,660 light-years away and is 15 light-years across.

The central star formation “nursery” where hot young stars power the emission nebulae. Infrared telescopes have shown there are 30 embryonic and 120 newborn stars not yet bright enough to emit light in the visible light part of the light spectrum. The new stars are very young at 400,000 years old with the central star in the nebula being a cluster of four-star systems, two of which are close binary stars, so there are six stars in all.

The Lagoon Nebula is, sometimes called the “Hourglass Nebula” (not to be confused with the true “Hourglass Nebula” in the constellation of Musca), is a very young nebula, perhaps less than 10,000 years. The nebula is further away than the Trifid Nebula at 4,100 light-years away and it’s a lot bigger with the nebula being 100 light-years across and 50 light-years high. It is one of the finest and brightest star-forming regions in the sky and contains many “Bok globules”, which contain dense cosmic dust and gas from which star formation may take place. The central emission area is energised by a bright ultraviolet “O4” class star and it’s a relatively easy object for amateur astrophotographers.

Trifid and Lagoon Nebulas on the 15/06/22 at 09:00 pm. Image Credit: Stellarium
Trifid and Lagoon Nebulas. Image Credit: Perth Observtory Volunteer Andrew Lockwood
Ptolemy Cluster:

The Ptolemy’s Cluster (M7 & NGC 6475) is a large open cluster near the sting of the tail of the constellation of Scorpius. While it’s 980 light-years away from us, it’s large enough to be seen with the unaided eye in a dark sky and is a nice sight in binoculars. The cluster is 25 light-years across, and it contains around 100 stars in total. It was first described by the Greek-Roman astronomer Ptolemy in 130 AD from which it gets its common name of Ptolemy’s cluster. The colour of the stars in this cluster is predominately yellow, indicating this is an older cluster, with an estimated age of 260 million years. Clusters that contain many hot blue stars, like the Pleiades, are considerably younger.

Ptolemy Cluster on the 15/06/22 at 09:00pm. Image Credit: Stellarium
Ptolemy Cluster. Image Credit & Copyright: Lorand Fenyes
Pavo Globular Cluster:

The Pavo Globular Cluster (NGC 6752) also known as the Starfish Globular Cluster, Peacock Cluster and Windmill Cluster is a globular star cluster located in the southern constellation Pavo (The Peacock). It’s over 13,000 light-years away from Earth and over 10 billion years old. It holds over 100 thousand stars in a sphere about 100 light-years in diameter. The Pavo Globular Cluster third brightest globular in the night sky after clusters Omega Centauri and 47 Tucanae. It was first catalogued by Scottish Astronomer James Dunlop at the Parramatta Observatory in New South Wales in 1827.

Telescopic explorations of the NGC 6752 have found that a remarkable fraction of the stars near the cluster’s core are multiple star systems. There are blue straggle stars as well, these are stars that appear to be too young and massive to exist in a cluster whose stars are all expected to be at least twice as old as the Sun. The blue stragglers are thought to be formed by star mergers and collisions in the dense stellar environment at the cluster’s core. The bright blue star in the photo below is a foreground star called SAO 254482.

Pavo Globular Cluster on the 15/06/22 at 09:00 pm. Image Credit: Stellarium
Pavo Globular Cluster. Image Credit: ESO

Phases Of The Moon:

June 2022 Moon phases