The Montana Night Sky
The highlights for the Montana night sky in June are brilliant Jupiter and even more brilliant Venus dominating the evening sky followed by Mars, which approaches the brightness of Jupiter by the end of the month as it heads toward its closest approach to Earth in 15 years
On top of that, the other naked eye planets, Saturn and Mercury, may also be seen in the night sky this month.
As June begins and darkness falls, look for brilliant Venus high up in the western sky. Venus doesn’t set until almost 12 midnight as the month begins and about a half hour before 12 midnight as the month comes to a close.
In the early part of the month, Venus passes near Castor and Pollux, the two almost equally bright stars in the constellation Gemini. Venus passes closest to Pollux on the evening of June 8.
In the other direction, as the sky darkens, look for the giant planet Jupiter shining brightly high up in the southeastern sky. Jupiter is accompanied by the much fainter but brightest star in the constellation Libra. Jupiter sets about an hour before sunrise as the month begins and about 2:40 a.m. at the end of the month.
By around mid-month, Venus and Jupiter are joined by the speedy inner planet Mercury, which rises up out of the solar glare to become increasingly easier to find as the month progresses when its time of setting increases to about 90 minutes after sunset by the end of the month.
Next up in the night sky is the ringed planet Saturn, which is located above the teapot shape of the constellation Sagittarius. Saturn rises close to 11 p.m. as the month begins and about two hours earlier as June comes to a close.
Saturn is followed by the increasingly brighter planet Mars, which rises just before 1 a.m. as June begins and a little after 11 p.m. by the end of the month. Mars continues to brighten dramatically, becoming almost as bright as Jupiter by the end of the month as it heads toward its closest approach to Earth since 2003 in late July.
As for the moon, look for the moon to the upper left of Saturn on June 1 and above Mars on June 3. The moon passes to the lower right of Venus on June 15 and then to the upper left of Venus the next evening. On June 23, the moon passes to the upper left of Jupiter. The moon is full when it passes to within a degree of Saturn on June 27. On the last day of the month, the moon passes above Mars.
For meteor shower watchers, there are no significant meteor showers this month. Even so, a sporadic meteor can flash across the sky at any time. From a dark site, meteors typically can be seen at a rate of about 5 meteors per hour.
The Sun arrives at the summer solstice at 4:07 a.m. on June 21, the longest day of the year, when summer begins in the Northern Hemisphere.