Find your way around the night sky! Below is a free sky map (star chart) as well as a printable version, courtesy of astronomer Jeff DeTray.
Sky Map for June 2015
Each month, Jeff’s Sky Maps provides a sky map which highlights beautiful events in the evening sky—stars, constellations, planets, conjunctions with the Moon, meteor showers, and other amazing celestial objects. Follow more of Jeff’s sky adventures at AstronomyBoy.com.
Click-and-Print Sky Map
Just click here or on the image below to open the printable map—then bring outside!
Sky Map Highlights: June 2015
This month’s highlights: The Serpent and the Teapot
In the month of June, the hours of daylight stretch longer than any other month of the year. As a result, the hours of darkness are very brief. How brief? In the mid-northern latitudes, which includes most of the United States and southern Canada, all of Europe, and much of central Asia, it does not become truly dark until nearly 11:30 p.m. By 4:00 a.m., the morning sky is already brightening. So the best time for June stargazing is the short window between midnight and 3:30 a.m.
Let’s make the most of those few hours of darkness!
Start by looking toward the south and spotting the bright stars Arcturus and Spica. They will be a little to your right, with Arcturus fairly high and Spica beneath it. About the same distance to the left is Altair in the constellation Aquila the Eagle. These three stars are about equal in brightness and will help us to find our way around.
Between Altair on the left, and Arcturus and Spica on the right, is a large region of fainter stars, most of which belong to the constellation Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer. Look for a large, lopsided circle of stars; that’s Ophiuchus. On either side of Ophiuchus is the unusual constellation Serpens, the Serpent. Serpens is unique as the only constellation that is split into two parts. To the right, Ophiuchus holds Serpens Caput (head of the Serpent), and to the left he holds Serpens Cauda (tail of the Serpent). The two parts of Serpens are circled in green on this month’s map. Although split in two, Serpens counts as only one constellation.
If your southern horizon is not obstructed by trees or buildings, or diminished by light pollution, June is a good time to search out the constellation Sagittarius the Archer—or, more precisely, a centaur famed for his skill as an archer. When you look toward Sagittarius, you are looking straight at center of our galaxy, the Milky Way. This part of the Milky Way is dense with stars, so much so that from a dark location it seems filled with faint clouds. They are clouds all right: clouds of stars!
Even if your sky is less than perfectly dark, you should be able to see the Teapot asterism, outlined in blue on the map. It is comprised of the brightest stars in Sagittarius. An asterism is an unofficial star pattern that is part of a larger constellation. If your sky is very dark and free from man-made light, you may notice what appears to be a hazy cloud of “steam” just above the “spout” of the Teapot. This is the Large Sagittarius Star Cloud, a dense group of thousands of stars.
Here is a photo of the Sagittarius region that shows much more than you can see with your unaided eyes:
To the right of Sagittarius, look for Antares, the heart of Scorpius the Scorpian and the fourth bright star on this month’s map. Unlike Altair, Arcturus, and Spica, which are bright white, Antares has a definite reddish-orange hue. In fact, its name comes from a Greek word meaning “rival of Mars.” Antares and the planet Mars are similar in color.
Sky map produced using Chris Marriott’s Skymap Pro
See our Sky Watch page for more highlights of the monthly sky, courtesy of The Old Farmer’s Almanac.