Look up with the June 2017 sky map to navigate the stars and constellations in the night sky. On this page is both a color sky map and a black and white printable map to bring outside!
Just click here or on the image below to open the printable map—then bring outside!
The Cosmic Clock
Objects in the sky always appear to be moving. The Sun and Moon rise in the east and set in the west. Although less obvious, the stars and constellations also rise and set each day. Like clockwork, every celestial object marches across the sky from east to west and in 24 hours returns to its starting point. The fact that nearly all of this apparent motion is caused by the Earth rotating on its axis is one of humankind’s greatest scientific discoveries.
Nowhere is this clocklike behavior more evident than in the northern sky. Take advantage of the pleasant June weather to watch the Cosmic Clock in action.
You’ll need a dark location away from bright lights. Wait until at least 11:00 p.m.; the June sky isn’t fully dark until then. Be prepared to stay up late and to devote at least 2 full hours to stargazing. Give your eyes at least 20 minutes to become dark-adapted, then look due north to find Polaris, the North Star, about halfway up the sky. It’s the only bright star in the area.
Look above Polaris to follow a curving line of three dim stars until you reach a small, starry rectangle. You’ve just traced the handle and bowl of the Little Dipper, which appears to be standing on its handle. Note how the bowl is located directly above Polaris. If you think of Polaris as the center of a clock face, then the bowl is pointing straight up toward what would be the 12 on a common clock.
With the position of the Little Dipper firmly in mind—perhaps you can make a simple sketch—spend the next hour or so enjoying the other celestial sights. We’ll get back to the Cosmic Clock shortly.
For now, look to left for the constellation Ursa Major, the Greater Bear, which appears to be standing on his nose in this view. The bear’s rump and tail are better known as the Big Dipper, but from a dark location you can make out his entire body, from his legs and paws to the tip of his nose.
To the right and near the horizon, look for the Big W shape of Cassiopeia, the Queen, and above her, King Cepheus, in the shape of a rudimentary sketch of a house. Above them both is the head of Draco, the Dragon, whose body winds in an S-shape that curves around the Little Dipper. Look to the right of Draco for the perfect little parallelogram in the constellation Lyra, the Lyre. Below Lyra lies the Northern Cross, whose stars comprise the body of Cygnus, the Swan.
Assuming that an hour has passed, go back to our starting point, the Little Dipper. Note how the whole constellation has revolved slightly counterclockwise around Polaris and is now in our Cosmic Clock position 1 (what would be 11 on a common clock). Wait another hour, and the Little Dipper will have revolved farther to Cosmic Clock position 2 (10 on a common clock). This clocklike motion will continue throughout the night; the Sky Map shows the Little Dipper’s position for 4 consecutive hours.
Importantly, it’s not just the Little Dipper that appears to revolve around Polaris. In fact, the entire sky moves in the same circular path with Polaris at its center. This is all due to the Earth’s rotation, which gives us our days, our nights, and our Cosmic Clock.
June Sky Map
Click here or on image below to enlarge this map (PDF).
Sky map produced using Chris Marriott’s Skymap Pro
Enjoy astronomy? Check out Bob Berman’s column, “This Week’s Amazing Sky.”