The summer solstice sky!
The sky map for June 2019 depicts the eastern sky on the first night of summer (Friday, June 21)—known as the summer solstice. The Summer Triangle will shine bright along with some nearby star patterns. Take a look—and get ready for some stargazing on Friday night!
Just click here or on the image below to open the printable map—then bring outside!
At the solstice, the sky doesn’t get truly dark until well after 10:00 p.m.—and as late as 11:30 in some locations. Your reward for staying up late is a chance to view prominent star patterns that will be with us all summer long.
The night sky is divided into 88 constellations, areas of the sky formally defined by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 1928. The star patterns within constellations represent everything from ancient mythological heroes and creatures like Orion, the Hunter, and Pegasus, the Winged Horse, to scientific inventions such as Microscopium, the Microscope, to real animals such as Tucana, the Toucan.
More than half of the 88 constellations—48, to be exact—come down to us from the ancient Greco-Roman tradition. The remaining constellations were added in more modern times, some as recently as the 18th century.
While the 88 official constellations will always be our most essential guides to the night sky, both professional and amateur observers have long noted many other star patterns that help them to navigate the heavens. These popular but unofficial groupings of stars are called asterisms, and the sky of the Summer Solstice is loaded with them.
The Summer Triangle
Looking due east and about halfway up the sky, you’ll find a large triangle of three bright stars. In order of brightness, they are Vega in Lyra, the Lyre; Altair in Aquila, the Eagle; and Deneb in Cygnus, the Swan. Together, they make the Summer Triangle, a large asterism that points the way to other sights in the summer sky.
Just below Vega hangs the Parallelogram, an exquisite four-sided asterism. Deneb marks the apex of the much larger Northern Cross, which appears to be lying on its side from our point of view. Thus, the large Summer Triangle asterism is home to two smaller asterisms!
Now look above the Summer Triangle for two other shapes, each composed of four stars. The more prominent of the two is the Keystone asterism in the constellation Hercules, the Roman Hero. Sprawling Hercules is the fifth largest of all constellations; the Keystone represents only his lower body.
Draco, the Dragon
To the left of the Keystone is the head of Draco, the Dragon. The four stars of the Dragon’s Head asterism vary greatly in brightness, but from a dark location, you should be able to glimpse even the faintest of the four.
To the left of the Summer Triangle are two more shapes that are easily recognized. The first is the House asterism, which forms the main body of Cepheus, the mythical King of Aethiopia. It really does resemble a child’s drawing of a house. Farther left is the Big W asterism in Cassiopeia, Aethiopia’s Queen. The five stars of the Big W are notably brighter than those in the House.
Finally, if you’re up for a longer excursion, look far to the right of the Summer Triangle for the Teapot asterism in Sagittarius, the Archer. The Teapot never ventures far from the horizon, so it is easily obscured by trees and buildings. If you find the Teapot, look to the left of its handle for the planet Saturn.
June 2019 Sky Map
Click here or on map below to enlarge (PDF).
Sky map produced using Chris Marriott’s Skymap Pro
Note: How to Read the Sky Map
Our sky map does not show the entire sky which would be almost impossible. Instead, the monthly map focuses on a particular region of the sky where something interesting is happening that month. The legend on the map always tells you which direction you should facing, based on midnight viewing. For example, if the map legend says “Looking Southeast,” you should face southeast when using the map.
The map is accurate for any location at a so-called “mid northern” latitude. That includes anywhere in the 48 U.S. states, southern Canada, central and southern Europe, central Asia, and Japan. If you are located substantially north of these areas, objects on our map will appear lower in your sky, and some objects near the horizon will not be visible at all. If you are substantially south of these areas, everything on our map will appear higher in your sky.
The items labeled in green on the sky map are known as asterisms. These are distinctive star patterns that lie within constellations. When getting your bearings under the stars, it’s often easiest to spot an asterism and use it as a guide to finding the parent constellation.
The numbers along the white “Your Horizon” curve at the bottom of the map are compass points, shown on degrees. As you turn your head from side to side, you will be looking in the compass direction indicated by those numbers. The horizon line is curved in order to preserve the geometry of objects in the sky. If we made the horizon line straight, the geometry of objects in the sky would be distorted.