Skip to main content

Current Night Sky

The Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian advances humanity’s knowledge of the Universe by uncovering the nature of distant cosmic phenomena. But many of our greatest discoveries start with the simple act of observing. Here’s what to look for in our current night sky. (Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech)

June 2021

What's Up for June? A partial solar eclipse, the scorpion's sting, and June is for Juno!

Following last month's total lunar eclipse, June brings us a solar eclipse. On June 10th, the Moon will slip briefly between Earth and the Sun, partially obscuring our local star from view.

The June 10 solar eclipse is visible primarily in the Northeast U.S and Canada, plus Northwest Europe. A small strip across Eastern Canada will experience it as an annular eclipse.

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Whereas May's lunar eclipse was best viewed around the Pacific, this month's solar eclipse will be a treat for those in the northeast U.S., eastern Canada, and Northern Europe. For U.S. viewers, this is a sunrise event, with the Moon already appearing to have taken a bite out of the Sun as it's rising. So you'll want to find a clear view toward the eastern horizon to observe it. Those farther to the north and east will see more of the Sun obscured by the Moon. For those in northern Europe, it's more of a lunchtime eclipse.

(Wherever you are, please review eclipse safety practices, and never look at the Sun without proper protection for your eyes.)

On summer evenings, you may notice a curved grouping of stars crawling across the southern sky, among them a brilliant red beacon. This is the constellation Scorpius, the scorpion, and beginning in June, it's the prime time to look for it.

The constellation Scorpius, with brilliant Antares at its heart, is a highlight of summer skies beginning in June. 

NASA/JPL-Caltech

This grouping of stars has been thought of as having the shape of a scorpion going back to ancient times in the Mediterranean and Middle East. In the Greek myth, the scorpion's deadly sting brought down the great hunter Orion, and that's why – the story goes – we find them on opposite sides of the sky today.

This pattern of stars also been seen as part of a great dragon, in China, and the fish hook of the demigod Maui in Hawaii. That fish-hook shape also forms the tail of the scorpion.

At the beginning of June, if you're in the northern hemisphere, the scorpion's tail might still be below the horizon for you, early in the evening. It rises over the first few hours after dark. But by the end of the month, the scorpion's tail will be above the horizon after sunset for most stargazers.

That bright, beacon-like star in Scorpius is Antares, which is a huge red giant star, and one of the brightest in the sky. It forms the blazing heart of the scorpion. So look toward the south and use Antares as your guide to find the constellation Scorpius.

Having swapped places in December 2020, Saturn now leads Jupiter across the sky, rising an hour before the other giant planet in June. 

NASA/JPL-Caltech

Finally this month, you'll remember back in December, when Jupiter and Saturn had their incredibly close meetup in the sky. In the runup to that "Great Conjunction," Jupiter led Saturn across the sky all through 2020. Well, 6 months later, the pair continue to move farther apart, and now Saturn has the lead position as the two planets rise and set. Look for them in the east after midnight, or toward the south at dawn.

And for more Jupiter excitement in June, NASA's Juno spacecraft is making its next close flyby over Jupiter on June 8th, and this time it will also make a low-altitude flyby over the planet-sized, icy moon Ganymede on June 7th. This is the first of several planned flybys of the Jovian moons by Juno, over the next couple of years, that include encounters with icy Europa and volcanic Io!

Here are the phases of the Moon for June.

The phases of the Moon for June 2021. 

NASA/JPL-Caltech