The brightest planets in June’s night sky: How to see them (and when)

The early morning skies are where all the planets are. Admittedly, you’ll have to wait until after the middle of the month to see Mercury, but thereafter they’ll all be in view. 

Step outside about 40 minutes before sunrise on June 24 and face the southern and eastern sky and you’ll be able to catch sight of all five naked-eye planets and the moon in one glance.  What’s even more interesting, is that they will all be lined up in their true order out from the sun: Mercury, Venus, the moon, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn

In our schedule, remember that when measuring the angular separation between two celestial objects, your clenched fist held at arm’s length measures roughly 10-degrees. Here, we present a schedule below which provides some of the best planet viewing times as well as directing you where to look to see them.

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If you’re looking for binoculars or a telescope to see the solar system planets, our guide for the best binoculars and the best telescopes have options that can help. If you need photography gear, consider our best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography to prepare for the next planet sight.

In our schedule, remember that when measuring the angular separation between two celestial objects, your clenched fist held at arm’s length measures roughly 10-degrees. Here, we present a schedule below which provides some of the best planet viewing times as well directing you as to where to look to see them.

The Sun

The sun will reach its summer solstice on June 21, 2022. (Image credit: Chris Vaughan)

The Sun – reaches the June solstice on June 2t at 5:14 a.m. EDT (0914 GMT). This is the day longest of the year, with the sun remaining above the horizon for almost exactly 15 hours at 40° north latitude.  

This moment of the solstice is when the sun attains its most northerly declination of the year and begins its six-month return south. The solstice marks the astronomical start of summer in the Northern Hemisphere and winter in the Southern Hemisphere. On the following evening, the slender sliver of the two-day-old moon (4% illuminated) will join the scene, sitting 4 degrees to Mercury’s upper left. Telescopically, the planet appears about one-fourth illuminated and in the days that follow, as its crescent phase thins, Mercury rapidly fades to magnitude +1.6 by the 6th; a couple of nights later the planet can no longer be seen.

Mercury

Mercury at greatest elongation on June 16, 2022. (Image credit: Chris Vaughan)

Mercury – was at inferior conjunction on May 21 and was only 3rd magnitude – far too dim to see low in the dawn – when June began.  

Even on June 16, when Mercury is at greatest elongation 23-degrees west of the sun, it’s just magnitude +0.6, making it only marginally visible to the unaided eye very low in the east-northeast about 30 minutes before sunrise. Look for it 10 degrees to Venus’s lower left.  

For the next two weeks, Mercury will remain just about the same altitude in bright twilight as it continues to brighten. If you’re up for a challenge, here it is: On June 27, about 30 to 40 minutes before sunrise, use binoculars and scan along the east-northeast horizon in the brightening dawn twilight and see if you can catch Mercury, which has now brightened to magnitude -0.4, and 3½-degrees to its upper left, you might also get a glimpse of the now exceedingly thin crescent moon, only 3% illuminated. And as a bonus, see if you can pick out the orange first-magnitude star Aldebaran, situated about 7-degrees to the left of Mercury.  

Venus

Venus is a bright predawn planet all month in June 2022. (Image credit: Chris Vaughan)

Venus – rises around the time of dawn’s first glow all summer long.  

On the morning of June 26th, early risers will be treated to its exquisite pairing with a slender crescent moon, with Venus sitting 2.5-degrees to its lower right. Binoculars also will help show the Pleiades 6.5-degrees north of Venus before morning twilight gets too bright.

Mars

Mars will shine with the moon and Ceres on June 22, 2022. (Image credit: Chris Vaughan)

Mars – after dawdling in the dawn for the first half of this year, the red planet is finally beginning to call attention to itself as approaches the Earth and continues to brighten.  

The Red Plant now shines at magnitude +0.5; a match for Achernar, the ninth brightest star. Fresh off of their strikingly close conjunction of May 29 Jupiter and Mars still make for an eye-catching duo this morning, low in the east-southeast sky about 90 minutes before sunrise. 

Yellow-orange Mars sits 1.8-degrees to Jupiter’s lower left.  On June 22, the moon pays a visit to Mars. You’ll find it sitting 5.5-degrees to the moon’s left.

Jupiter

Jupiter will shine with Mars early June 2, 2022. (Image credit: Chris Vaughan)

Jupiter – dazzling at magnitude -2.4 is always a welcome sight in the southeast as dawn brightens. Mars and Jupiter continue to separate from each other as June progresses at a little over a half degree per day. By month’s end they will be almost 20-degrees apart.  

If you’re up on the morning of June 21, perhaps awaiting the first sunrise of summer, cast a glance toward the moon and nearly 5 degrees to its upper left you’ll see this, the biggest planet in the solar system. Jupiter reaches western quadrature, 90-degrees west of the sun, marking the spot on the sky toward which the Earth is hurtling in its orbit.  

Accordingly, we draw 15.6 miles (25 km) nearer to the giant planet every second during June. As a result, Jupiter swells 8% in apparent equatorial diameter during the month.  In a telescope you’ll notice another effect of Jupiter’s position near quadrature: the western edge of the planet’s globe is slightly shadowed making for a gibbous Jupiter.  On a morning of excellent atmospheric seeing Jupiter may serve your medium-sized telescope a generous helping of details in its dark belts and bright zones.  The seeing often steadies as dawn brightens. 

Saturn

Saturn will appear to “stand still” in the night sky on June 5, 2022 as it halts its eastward motion in the night sky. (Image credit: Chris Vaughan)

Saturn – the famed ringed world is a planet of autumn evenings this year, but it’s already rising before midnight daylight saving time by June 15.  It is well placed for viewing in the southeast or south-southeast as dawn arrives.  

Saturn halts its eastward motion in Aquarius on June 5, beginning its annual retrograde loop back westward through Capricornus. Around June 1, Saturn’s rings appear narrowest of the year, tilted 12.3-degrees from edge on. On June 18, early morning skywatchers will see it as a moderately bright yellowish-white “star” hovering about a half dozen degrees above and slightly to the left of the waning gibbous moon.  

Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York’s Hayden Planetarium (opens in new tab). He writes about astronomy for Natural History magazine (opens in new tab), the Farmers’ Almanac (opens in new tab) and other publications. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) and on Facebook (opens in new tab)

Source: space.com

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