Friday, June 13
Vega is the brightest star shining in the east after dusk. It's currently the top star of the big Summer Triangle. The brightest star to Vega's lower left is Deneb. Look farther to Vega's lower right for Altair. The Summer Triangle will climb higher in early evening all through the summer, to pose highest overhead at dusk just as fall begins.
Saturday, June 14
Mars and Spica arrest your eye in the southwest just after dark this week. Spot brighter Arcturus high above them. Half as far below them is the four-star pattern of Corvus, the Crow.
Sunday, June 15
The waning gibbous Moon rises in the east-southeast around 11 p.m. (depending on where you live). Well to its upper left shines Altair, flagged by the little star Tarazed about a finger-width at arm's length above it. Left or lower left of Altair, by about a fist and a half at arm's length, look for the compact constellation Delphinus, the Dolphin.
Monday, June 16
After dark, look below Mars and Spica in the southwest for the four-star pattern of Corvus, the Crow. It's a springtime constellation descending now that spring is nearing its end.
Tuesday, June 17
Vega is the brightest star high in the east. Barely to its lower left after dark is one of the best-known multiple stars in the sky: 4th-magnitude Epsilon (ε) Lyrae, the Double-Double. It forms one corner of a roughly equilateral triangle with Vega and Zeta (ζ) Lyrae. The triangle is less than 2° on a side, hardly the width of your thumb at arm's length. Binoculars easily resolve Epsilon (not quite resolved in the photo here), and a 4-inch telescope at 100× or more should resolve each of Epsilon's two wide components into a tight pair.
Zeta Lyrae, the triangle's third star, is also a double star for binoculars, much tougher, but it's easily split with a telescope. Delta Lyrae, the next star down, as a much wider binocular pair; it's resolved in the photo.
Wednesday, June 18
With Scorpius coming up into good evening view now, keep an eye on the doings of Delta Scorpii. This is the middle star in the row of three marking Scorpius's head. In July 2000 it unexpectedly doubled in brightness. It has remained brighter than normal ever since, with fluctuations, at about magnitude 2.0. Compare it to Beta Scorpii above it, magnitude 2.6, and Antares, 1.1. See the June Sky & Telescope, page 51.
Thursday, June 19
Now that the Moon is out of the evening sky, plan some new deep-sky hunts with your scope! You may know of the splendid globular star clusters M10 and M12 in Ophiuchus. But what about the lesser-known galaxies to their northwest? Track them down with Sue French's Deep-Sky Wonders article and chart in the June Sky & Telescope, page 56.
Friday, June 20
This is the time of year when the two brightest stars of summer, Arcturus and Vega, shine equally high overhead as evening grows late: Arcturus in the southwest, Vega toward the east. Arcturus and Vega are 37 and 25 light-years away, respectively. They represent the two commonest types of naked-eye stars: a yellow-orange K giant and a white A main-sequence star. They're 150 and 50 times more luminous than the Sun — and this, combined with their nearness, is why they dominate the evening sky.
Saturday, June 21
If you have a good dark sky, look east as the final glow of twilight fades away. All across the low eastern sky, the starry, mottled band of the Milky Way is looming up. It rises higher through the night and crosses straight overhead around 3 a.m.
The June solstice occurs at 6:51 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, when the Sun reaches its northernmost point in the sky for the year and begins its six-month return south. Summer begins in the Northern Hemisphere, where today is the longest day. In the Southern Hemisphere, this is the start of winter and the longest night.
Want to become a better astronomer? Learn your way around the constellations. They're the key to locating everything fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope.
This is an outdoor nature hobby; for an easy-to-use constellation guide covering the whole evening sky, use the big monthly map in the center of each issue of Sky & Telescope, the essential guide to astronomy. Or download our free Getting Started in Astronomy booklet (which only has bimonthly maps).
Once you get a telescope, to put it to good use you'll need a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts). The standards are the little Pocket Sky Atlas, which shows stars to magnitude 7.6; the larger and deeper Sky Atlas 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 8.5); and once you know your way around, the even larger Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.75). And read how to use sky charts with a telescope.
You'll also want a good deep-sky guidebook, such as Sue French's Deep-Sky Wonders collection (which includes its own charts), Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Strong and Sinnott, the bigger Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner, or the beloved if dated Burnham's Celestial Handbook.
Can a computerized telescope replace charts? Not for beginners, I don't think, and not on mounts and tripods that are less than top-quality mechanically (able to point with better than 0.2° repeatability, which means fairly heavy and expensive). As Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer say in their Backyard Astronomer's Guide, "A full appreciation of the universe cannot come without developing the skills to find things in the sky and understanding how the sky works. This knowledge comes only by spending time under the stars with star maps in hand."
This Week's Planet Roundup
Mercury is lost in the glow of sunset.
Venus (magnitude –3.9) shines low in the east during dawn.
Mars (magnitude –0.2, in Virgo) is high in the south-southwest in twilight, with Spica to its left. Mars sets in the west around 1 or 2 a.m. daylight saving time.
In a telescope, Mars's gibbous disk is 10.5 arcseconds tall and shrinking. See the Mars map and observing guide in the March Sky & Telescope, page 50. Use our Mars Profiler to find which side of the planet will be facing Earth when you plan to look.
Jupiter (magnitude –1.8, in Gemini) shines low in the west-northwest in twilight and sets around nightfall. Look for Pollux and Castor, much fainter, to its upper right.
Saturn (magnitude +0.3, in Libra) glows in the southeast to south during evening. The wide binocular double star Alpha Librae glimmers 3° to Saturn's lower right; they easily fit within a typical binocular's field of view.
Well off to Saturn's right shine Spica and then Mars. Look for Antares and the head of Scorpius down to Saturn's lower left.
In a telescope Saturn's globe is 18 arcseconds wide, and its rings are tilted 22° from our line of sight. Use our SaturnMoons app to find and identify Saturn's various satellites at any time and date. A 6-inch scope will show four or five of them: Titan, Rhea, Dione, Tethys, and sometimes Iapetus.
Uranus, in Pisces, is low in the east just before dawn begins.
Neptune, in Aquarius, is up in the southeast before the first light of dawn. Use our finder charts for Uranus and Neptune in 2014.
All descriptions that relate to your horizon — including the words up, down, right, and left — are written for the world's mid-northern latitudes. Descriptions that also depend on longitude (mainly Moon positions) are for North America.
Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) is Universal Time (UT, UTC, or GMT) minus 4 hours.