Look up with the June 2018 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!
Highlight for May: A Celestial String of Pearls
The June sky brings to mind a romantic stanza by German poet Christian Johann Heinrich Heine (1797–1856) in “Of Pearls and Stars”:
The pearly treasures of the sea,
The lights that spatter heaven above,
More precious than these wonders are
My heart-of-hearts filled with your love.
The planets of our solar system always appear to be moving among the stars. In fact, our word “planet” is derived from the Greek word for “wanderer.” The earliest records of ancient cultures demonstrate their recognition that while most of the lights in the night sky (the stars) always remained in fixed positions, a few “stars” appeared to wander. Five such “wanderers” were known to the ancients: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. These are the “naked-eye planets,” those that can be seen without any optical aid.
From our Earthly point of view, the apparent movements of the planets are surprisingly complex. All of them, including Earth, orbit (revolve around) the Sun, each at a different rate. Mercury takes only 88 days to make a trip around the Sun; a Mercurian year lasts just 88 days. The orbital period of the Earth, of course, is 365 days. When we get to Saturn, its year lasts 10,759 days—more than 29 of our years.
One result of these differing orbital periods is that each planet appears to move against the starry background at a different speed, and sometimes in a different direction. Mercury moves rapidly, Saturn quite slowly, the others somewhere in between.
Despite their different orbital speeds, every so often the movements of the planets bring them into interesting alignments. Sometimes, two or more planets appear quite near each other in the sky, a conjunction. In June 2018, a very different alignment occurs: Three bright planets, plus a bright star, are stretched like a long string of pearls across the sky.
The brightest of the gems is Jupiter, the King of Planets, on the far right of this month’s map. Jupiter reached its brightest for 2018 a few weeks ago and is now slowly fading. However, it remains quite brilliant all through June.
June 2018 Sky Map
Click here or on image below to enlarge this map (PDF).
Sky map produced using Chris Marriott’s Skymap Pro
Moving to the left, we encounter not a planet but the bright star Antares, the heart of the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion. The star’s name means “equal to Ares [Mars].” Antares has an orangish or reddish hue, very similar to the coloration of the planet Mars, which is shown on the far left of our map. Compare the two and see if you think that Antares’ color is indeed “equal to Mars.”
Near the center of the map is our third pearl, the planet Saturn, named for Saturnus, the Roman god of agriculture. Whereas Jupiter gradually dims throughout June, Saturn grows slowly brighter.
On the left lies Mars, the Red Planet. Although nearly the same color as the star Antares, Mars is much brighter and grows steadily more brilliant throughout June.
If you find yourself in a truly dark location, look for a fifth pearl, the minor planet 4 Vesta, not far from Saturn and near the center of the sky map. Minor planets are bits of material left over from the formation of the solar system. The numeral “4” in its name indicates that Vesta was the fourth minor planet to be discovered, in 1807. Vesta is 326 miles in diameter and the brightest known minor planet, of which several hundred thousand have so far been discovered.