Summer astronomy: what to observe during the lighter months

Many amateur astronomers pack up their kit for summer, as shorter nights often mean it never truly gets dark after sunset. But there are still many objects to keep us looking up before the onset of winter.

Olli Reijonen sent in this image of a Perseid, top right of the picture, that he managed to capture while photographing noctilucent clouds and aurora at Lake Päijänne in Finland. Olli used an Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera and Panasonic Lumix G 200mm lens.
Credit: O. Reijonen

Image: Noctilucent clouds captured by Olli Reijonen at Lake Päijänne in Finland.

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Credit: Olli Reijonen


It’s an annual thing, as far as I can see, and to be fair it does make me see red.

You know the usual statement: “oh, it’s June and the season for light nights so you won’t be able to see anything now for several months”.

Poppycock! It is true that if you are further north, then the skies do get tough for observing deep-sky objects such as galaxies and nebulae.

Yet there are plenty of sights to look out for, be it for visual observing or imaging.

First up, with the naked eye we have possible displays of noctilucent clouds to look out for.

And when it comes to the binocular or telescope user, they often consider this the ‘down time’ for cleaning, repairing or doing maintenance of their equipment.

Yes that is a good idea and it is always worth keeping your equipment in tip top condition, but there are the star clouds of the Milky Way to explore with binoculars or rich field telescopes.

Never be put off by the naysayers when it comes to the lighter summer skies

I like the look of globular clusters in the lighter skies if you have a larger aperture scope to pull out those stars.

Double stars don’t need jet black skies either, so they are a great summertime target to seek out along with the brighter open clusters that dot along the Milky Way.

Throw in the brighter variable stars and there is plenty to turn your telescope to if you so desire, and let’s not forget the Moon and planets too!

Many imagers still manage to produce stunning views of targets such as the Veil Nebula or the North America Nebula, so never be put off by the naysayers when it comes to the lighter summer skies.

Then there are the meteor showers to look out for, such as the Perseids in August.

Let’s face it, it’s much better under the (hopefully) warmer night skies so you can get that Sun, sorry, meteor lounger out whilst your camera attempts to catch that elusive very bright one that is a showstopper (I live in hope!).

Meanwhile, the latest issue of BBC Sky at Night Magazine will give you plenty to think about, whether it’s our monthly Sky Guide, practical articles or the latest equipment in our reviews section.

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The June 2019 issue of BBC Sky at Night Magazine is out 23 May.