Jupiter and Saturn travelling together this summer

James Edgar


The moon is a few days from full phase as June begins. June 5 marks the beginning of eclipse season, as the full moon is partially covered by Earth’s shadow in a penumbral lunar eclipse, although none of the event will be visible from North America.

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Jupiter and Saturn are travelling together this summer, so it’s not surprising that they both end up near the moon at the same time. Watch for them in the early morning June 8, when they’re within two and three degrees, respectively. A few days later, June 12, Luna meets up with Mars and Neptune, just before sunrise.

June 16, Uranus is within four degrees of the moon. June 19, Venus is occulted for observers in northern and eastern Canada, plus northern Europe and Asia. The moon is new June 20 and, as expected, a little more than 14 days after the lunar eclipse, an annular solar eclipse occurs (because the moon is at apogee June 14, at the most distant point in its orbit, it’s not quite capable of fully covering the  sun, thus an annulus surrounds the moon in an annular eclipse).The eclipse begins in central and eastern Africa, across the Arabian Peninsula, northern India, southern China and out into the Pacific Ocean. Dedicated eclipse chasers are hoping the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t cancel their travel plans.

Mercury is visible in the western evening sky, achieving greatest eastern elongation June 4, well placed for Northern Hemisphere viewers until mid-month.

Venus is right in front of the sun (inferior conjunction) June 3, and by mid-month is the Morning Star before eastern sunrise. Watch for the occultation by the moon June 19, a close approach for western Canadians.

Mars is an early morning object, gradually getting brighter and appearing larger. June 12, it is 1.7 degrees south of Neptune and three degrees north of the moon.

Jupiter rises before midnight, promising to be a summer attraction at star parties. The Galilean moons always provide a pleasing experience for first-time viewers through a telescope. Their daily dance around the giant planet changes by the hour. Three dates see double-shadow transits across the face of Jupiter, June 4, 11 and 18. The waning gibbous moon joins Jupiter and Saturn June 8. Jupiter is retrograding throughout all of June, appearing to move westward.

Saturn, also retrograding, moves along with Jupiter in the late evening sky. It, too, promises to attract “Ooohs” and “Aahs” from first-time viewers. Nothing beats seeing the rings of the planet against the black backdrop of space.

Uranus is four degrees north of the moon June 16, becoming increasingly difficult to see as the blue-green planet hugs the morning horizon just before sunup.

Neptune is also in the morning sky, and a difficult object because of the low angle of the ecliptic. Neptune and the moon bracket Mars June 12.

Summer solstice is on June 20 at 21:44 UT.

James Edgar has had an interest in the night sky all his life. He joined The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada in 2000, was national president for two terms, is now the editor of the Observer’s Handbook, and production manager of the bi-monthly RASC Journal. The IAU named asteroid 1995 XC5 “(22421) Jamesedgar” in his honour.


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