From a space station to a strawberry moon: What to look out for in the Suffolk sky in June
- Credit: Picture: JOHN FITCH
If you are a keen sky gazer, then here are all the important astronomical events to mark on your calendar throughout June – including a strawberry moon, space station and clouds made out of ice crystals.
Here, with the help of Suffolk astronomer Neil Norman, we take a look at what’s to come in June so you can get your binoculars and cameras at the ready.
When and what should you look out for?
Neil explained: “Sadly, we are entering a bad time of year astronomically. Not because there’s nothing to see, but because the length of night is so short – technically it doesn’t get fully dark now until the end of July.”
As of mid-June, relative darkness begins at 12.54am and lasts until 2.37am – giving you a tight window to catch sight of something in the sky.
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That being said, we do have some exciting things to see.
Noctilucent clouds – after sunset on any clear night
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If you face to the north after sunset on a clear night in June, you may see Noctilucent clouds.
Neil explained: “These clouds are made of ice crystals that are high up in the sky. The name Noctilucent is from Latin meaning ‘night shining’.
“These are the highest clouds that can be in the atmosphere, as they reach between 250,000ft and 280,000ft or 47 to 53 miles.
“They appear to glow with an electric blue colour and show up beautifully on camera.”
In the morning skies we will be able to see planets Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – all of which will be in the southern sky before sunrise, explains Neil.
“A modest pair of binoculars will show four moons of Jupiter and a small telescope will show the rings of Saturn nicely,” he said.
On June 4, Mercury is said to reach its greatest eastern elongation of 23.6 degrees from the sun. This means it is the best time to view Mercury as it will be at its highest point above the horizon in the evening sky.
Make sure to look for the planet low in the western sky just after sunset.
Strawberry Moon – June 5
The full moon is on June 5 and is known as the Strawberry Moon, explains Neil.
“It will be just above the bright star Antares, in Scorpio, which will make for a nice sight. The star’s name translates to ‘rival of Mars’, because of its blood-red colour.
“Antares is a red supergiant star that is approximately 550 light years away, which means that we are seeing the star as it looked in 1470 or so.”
Antares is just 20million years old, while our sun in contrast is 4.5billion years old and in mid-life - whereas Antares is on the brink of exploding as a supernova.
It is 880 times the diameter of the sun, 10,000 times brighter and is much cooler on the surface – hence it’s red colour.
The Strawberry Moon will be located on the opposite side of the earth, as the sun and its face will be fully illuminated.
According to some astronomical reports, this full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Strawberry Moon because it signalled the time of year to gather ripening fruit.
It also coincides with the peak of the strawberry harvesting season and has also been known as the Rose Moon and the Honey Moon.
Summer Triangle – at nightfall
In the evening sky we have the Summer Triangle which is comprised of three stars in three different constellations, explains Neil.
“There is Vega in Lyra, Deneb in Cygnus and Altair in Aquila. The Milky Way runs through these constellations and binoculars will show thousands of stars.”
The Summer Triangle will be visible first thing at nightfall and climbs highest up for the night at late evening.
Hercules constellation – June to September
“The constellation Hercules is below Lyra and homes the star cluster M31, which can just be seen with the naked eye but again, binoculars will show it as a ‘misty patch’,” explained Neil.
“The cluster contains thousands of stars and is 11million light years away and was first noted by Edmond Halley in 1714. He, of course, is most famous for the comet named after him.”
Space Station – June 30
The space station makes just one pass in June on the morning of June 30, says Neil.
“It will launch at 3.53am and will be quite bright at magnitude -1.5.”