June nights usually mark the beginning of great weather for observations in southern European countries but very short nights in northern countries. On clear nights out of towns, in places where the sky is dark, you can see anywhere up to about 1,500 to 2, 000 stars, depending on your age and your eyesight. of course light pollution is a problem and if you are in city you will see much less.
This month's greatest feature is the lunar eclipse. There will also be two partial solar eclipses but they will only be seen on polar regions. In Europe only Northern most Norway, Sweden and Finland might have a glimpse of the June 1st eclipse. The July 1st solar eclipse will only be seen close to the South Pole.
The lunar eclipse will be happening on June 15th there will be a full Moon and a total lunar eclipse! We'll get a good view across Europe because the Moon starts to move into the Earth's shadow in early evening so this will be great for observations even with children.
The first lunar eclipse of 2011 occurs at the Moon's ascending node in southern Ophiuchus about 7° west of the Lagoon Nebula (M8). The Moon passes deeply through Earth's umbral shadow during this rather long event. The total phase itself lasts 100 minutes. The last eclipse to exceed this duration was in July 2000. The Moon's contact times with Earth's umbral and penumbral shadows are listed below.
- Penumbral Eclipse Begins: 17:24:34 UT
- Partial Eclipse Begins: 18:22:56 UT
- Total Eclipse Begins: 19:22:30 UT
- Greatest Eclipse: 20:12:37 UT
- Total Eclipse Ends: 21:02:42 UT
- Partial Eclipse Ends: 22:02:15 UT
- Penumbral Eclipse Ends: 23:00:45 UT
Click on the image to see a complete information sheet about the eclipse by Fred Espenak.
When totality begins the moon is expected to take on a reddish glow. It's a stunning sight and yep, you can look directly at it with no problem of hurting your eyes. It will be fun to take some pictures. If you want to, you can send them to us and we will publish them on our website.
It is now possible to see summer constellations, so you can try and find Scorpius. Lying near the centre of the Milky Way and rising in the east is really the only zodiac constellation that does, in fact, look like its namesake, the giant constellation of Scorpius or the 'Scorpion.'
It's one of the easiest constellations to pick out as it's also one of the few that does look like what it's supposed to represent. Now, look for the red heart of the Scorpion, the star known as Antares. It's a red giant star that is hundreds of times bigger than our Sun!
Scorpius is a fabulous part of the sky to scan with a pair of binoculars. You can easy globular clusters (M4) and open clusters (M6 and M7) just using a pair of binoculars in a dark place.
In June it is also possible to observe the Solar System's brightest planets. The eastern morning sky in June is dominated by two very bright planets, and they are, of course, Venus and Jupiter. After sunset use your telescope or borrow a friend's to look at the planet Saturn high in the north. You should be able to see those magnificent rings just opening up.
Fred Espenak's Eclipse Page for NASA