What's coming up in the northern hemisphere's night sky in the week of 20 to 26 June.


Chris Bramley Hello and welcome to Star Diary, the podcast from the makers of BBC Sky at Night Magazine. You can subscribe to the print edition of the magazine by visiting www.skyatnightmagazine.com, or to our digital edition by visiting iTunes or Google Play.

Ezzy Pearson Greetings, listeners, and welcome to Star Diary, a weekly guide to the best things to see in the Northern Hemisphere's night Sky. In this episode, we'll be covering the coming week from the 20th to 26th June. I'm Ezzy Pearson, the magazine's news editor, and I'm joined on the podcast today by reviews editor Paul Mooney. Hello, Paul.

Paul Money Hello, Ezzy. Everything all right?

Ezzy Pearson Everything is fine. But can you tell us, will everything be fine in the sky tonight?

Paul Money Well, I can't promise clear skies, that is definitely beyond my reach.

Ezzy Pearson But if the skies are clear, what can people see tonight?

Paul Money Well, we we start off with the morning sky because it's all happening really in the morning sky at the moment, because this week we've got the parade of planets, as I like to call it. And what we've got is Saturn is the highest. It's well up. By, say, about 3:20 in the morning on the 20/21, which really well up in the sky, it's over in the south east towards the south. So we know it's well-placed to observe now. It's getting it's now to the point where it's beginning to rise around about midnight. So we get a better chance to observe it when it's high up. Instead of looking through that all that murky atmosphere low down. So its well placed. And a minor world Vesta is not too far from it in nearby Aquarius as well. But the moon's up in this region and this is why it sort of always attracts our attention, because the moon will pass several planets. Now, it passed Saturn just a few days ago. So it's last week's session. So on the 21st, the last quarter moon, it lies forming a triangle with bright Jupiter and much fainter Neptune. Obviously You need a telescope to find Neptune. You can do Neptune in large binoculars. It's a myth that you only need a telescope for Neptune, but you can do it with large binoculars. So the first last quarter, moon formed a triangle with Jupiter and Neptune and, it's always nice to have the moon guide you to these planets. I mean, Jupiter's easy.

Ezzy Pearson It's definitely... it's one that jumps out and hits you around the face, even when you're not looking for it, when it's nice and bright.

Paul Money It and Venus sort of thing. Yeah, if you can't find them, then you're in trouble. But it's a but Neptune. It's nice when something like the moon because the moon's formed this nice triangle. So it gives you a good idea roughly where to aim the binoculars and a telescope to capture Neptune itself. Now, the next morning on the 22nd, the moon still forms a triangle, but this time it's with Jupiter and Mars. So Jupiter, Mars and Neptune, they're not quite... Jupiter's not quite piggy in the middle. But it's close to it. So it means that when the moon's... Next time is actually forming this shallow triangle with Jupiter and Mars as well. So. So we've got Saturn, we've got Jupiter and Mars. We've actually got quite a host of bright planets. We've got Venus as well. And the thing about Venus is it's very low down. It is gradually heading back into the solar glare. So it's one of those things that we will steadily lose it, but it's one of those quirks that if you if you determined to stay up Venus again is so bright, even in bright twilight, you can often pick it out. So it takes longer for us to actually lose Venus itself. But in the meantime, not too far away from Venus and just beginning to emerge, and it will be a bit of a challenge at this stage, is Uranus. So you got quite a lot of planets up there. So we've got Venus, Uranus, Mars, Jupiter, Neptune, Saturn. And of course you can throw in our own moon and Vesta as well. So it's quite an interesting sight at the moment. But I say Uranus will be the challenge because of the twilight itself. But then, you know, Venus is nearby. So, you know, if you get bored trying to find Uranus and can't find it, you know, you've got brilliant Venus nearby to actually spot it. And that takes us to really the very last day because on the 26th, the crescent moon, now we are getting to a very thin crescent moon now. It lies roughly above Venus. Now this is a photo opportunity, surely because of crescent moon, above brilliant Venus is always an attractive picture anyway. So astrophotographers out there. Come on, let's see your pictures of that.

Ezzy Pearson Absolutely.

Paul Money Exactly. I mean, there is a bonus, though, and it's always difficult because we are talking about the end of June. We're just past the actual solstice. That was on the 21st. So, you know, we are in actual fact, dealing with the solstice. So the skies are light. We have the inevitable cries "Oh, we can't do any astronomy during the summer because the skies are light." Now. To be fair, the further north you are, that does apply because the skies are too light. But you know, for quite a few of these light mid-latitudes, we can still see a reasonable amount of stuff. Now, the thing about this is that the Moon and Venus also form a triangle with the Pleiades. So they're emerging now out after being hidden by the solar glare. But it's one of those things that the bright twilight might well cause you to have problems with them. So, you know, use binoculars. I'm not sure whether they'll actually be naked eye. I've tried at this time of year to observe them, and I found it very difficult. You also, as we often say, you need a clear, uncluttered horizon because they are quite low down. You're looking roughly east northeast in that general region, a little bit more towards the northeast part. And so, you know, it's the twilight that I think might be the problem. But having Venus and the Moon as a guide, then you stand at least a chance. And I think with binoculars you might just pick them out. But we're looking at about 3:20 in the morning. So, you know, it's quite early, but, you know, it won't be too long before the sun's just too well... The sky's too bright to capture this. So, you know, it's one of those things. But at the same time, we've got an additional bonus. And this is why I like it as a photographic opportunity, because when it's a slim crescent, the moon, we see the earth shine on it. And we have mentioned the earthshine a few times before. And it's second hand light bounced off the Earth's bright, reflective surface and atmosphere back onto the moon, it illuminates the night side of the moon. So that's why we call it Earthshine, because it's actually light bounced off the Earth, illuminating the night side of the moon. So it looks quite ephemeral. I always think of seeing this.

Paul Money It has this kind of like, as you said, like the sort of aethereal, ephemeral beauty about it, that you can sort of just see the shadows of the shadows in the shadow. It's like kind of. Yeah, you. You can see it. It's quite incredible.

Ezzy Pearson It's a bit ghostly.

Paul Money Yeah, absolutely ghostly. And the thing is, if you're careful with a telescope, binoculars. You can see some of the features of the moon. They're subtle. Yeah, right. That really are on the edge. But, you know, it's quite fun, actually, to see and especially some of the bright ray craters actually do stand out quite well on the Earthshine. So there we are. So we've got Venus, we've got the crescent moon, we've got Earthshine. And you never know. You might pick out the Pleiades. Messier 45, just emerging out of the solar glare. But they will be at a bit of a challenge. But I like challenges. You know, that's the whole point is easy to do the regular things all the time. But sometimes, you know, having a side challenge just to see whether you can do something like that.

Ezzy Pearson As I always think challenges is how you grow better in a hobby. You're doing this for your enjoyment, but if you want to grow and improve, the best way is to try to stretch yourself and challenge yourself to to do these things are a bit more difficult. So definitely, yeah. Hopefully some of our listeners out there will challenge themselves and find a new ability that they didn't know they had before.

Paul Money So to finish off for this particular week then... Actually if you.... We have got Comet and it's Comet 2017 K2 Panstarrs and the thing about this is that it is visible in binoculars, it's roughly about mag +8. So don't get excited you won't see a massive great tail or anything like that. But the point about this is, again, we often highlight when they're close to something that helps guide you to it. And in this particular case, and she's moving past the star Beta Ophiuci. So magnitude 2.7 for that star. So that's a naked eye, easy to see star. So it's worth going out because over the course of the next few days, on June 21st through to the 23rd. Comet, Panstarrs passes that star quite close. So if you use binoculars and then get, say, two or three mornings that are actually two or three evenings, I should say clear. Then you can see the comet slide past this bright star. So it won't be the comet itself, won't be anything great to shout out about visually, you know, but it'll be worth having a look at. I mean, a few people have noted there is a bit of a tail, but it is very tiny. But best of viewing as you get closer to midnight. When we're in the summer solstice or close to the summer solstice, then the darkest bit is really around about midnight and you've got probably around midnight. It's not even dark, but you know that about an hour or so, that's about the best time you'll have before the skies really start to get light. That's why there's such a problem for Deep Sky Astrophotography We don't really have enough time to do the long exposures or even lots of exposures. So, you know, have a nice finish to the week sort of thing to get that. So we end on a comet, so we've ghad planets with the moon sort of thing, you know, with the Pleiades and we had a comet as well, so there we are.

Paul Money Hmm. So whilst it might not be the best time of year to do some deep sky astrophotography, there are a couple of other photo opportunities that you mentioned there too, around the crescent moon and Venus and the places coming together. And so if any of our listeners do take up your your challenge on that one to take some photos, please do let us know. We have details over on our website www.skyatnightmagazine.com. About how you can submit them and we always print the best ones every month in the magazine, so maybe one of our listeners images will end up in the magazine. But thank you, Paul, for telling us about all of them.

Paul Money My pleasure. Let's hope we get some clear skies.


Chris Bramley Thank you for listening to this episode of Star Diary our podcast from the makers of BBC Sky at Night Magazine, which was produced in our Bristol studio by Brittany Collie for more of our podcasts. Visit our website at www.skyatnightmagazine.com or head to Acast, iTunes or Spotify.


Elizabeth Pearson
Ezzy PearsonScience journalist

Ezzy Pearson is the Features Editor of BBC Sky at Night Magazine. Her first book about the history of robotic planetary landers is out now from The History Press.