In June 2019, the Moon pairs up with three planets, while planets meet other planets! Next up: Tonight, June 18, features a twilight conjunction of Mercury and Mars and, more visibly, a late-night conjunction of the Moon and bright Saturn!
Mercury’s Best 2019 Apparition
Mercury returns to the evening sky between June 3 and July 11. But you do need an unobstructed view toward the west. If you live on the West Coast or in Kansas, you’re in luck. If you’re in mountainous Colorado, you’ll have a challenge. If hills or trees block the direction of sunset, then go to a field, lake, parking lot, cemetery, or wherever you can find a flat, ocean-like horizon. As soon as you have a clear night, look in that direction about 40 minutes after sunset.
I can’t tell you the exact time that will be unless you live where I do. And I doubt you do, since there are only 156 people in my town and I think I know them all. Try the Almanac’s handy Rise/Set tool which calculates when the planets set for your location. Or, figure around 9:20 or 9:30 p.m. in most places. Another trick is to find out your own local sunset time (also on Almanac.com), add 40 minutes, and that’s when you should look low in the west to look for the brightest “star.”
Of course, Mercury is not a star. It’s the charbroiled, smallest, densest world in the known universe. Floating in Gemini, it’s currently brighter than any true star. As for its exact location, if you place the bottom of your fully extended fist on the western horizon just about where the sun set, then the top of that fist will show you where Mercury floats 40 minutes after sunset. Pretty easy, actually.
Conjunction of Moon and Mercury on June 4
On Tuesday evening, June 4, the Moon and Mercury pair up. Look for the thin crescent moon one hour after sunset. Then look just to the right of the young Moon for a bright object. That’s Mercury! Look above the Moon to see if you can find a fainter Mars. Mercury is about 10 times brighter than Mars now.
Conjunction of Moon and Mars on June 5
On June 5, the young Moon will pass right near Mars. The Moon is higher up in the sky right above Mars so it may be easier to see after sunset. Note how the crescent Moon’s lighted face points towards the red planet.
As the days progress, the Moon will stay out longer after dark.
Jupiter Opposition of the Sun on June 10
But the show is just beginning… On Monday, June 10, Jupiter reaches its annual “opposition.” The Earth passes between Jupiter and the Sun. It’s the brightest object in the night sky all night long.
This is one of the very best times to view and photograph Jupiter and its moons. See more details on my post about the Jupiter Opposition 2019.
Conjunction of the Full Moon and Jupiter on June 16
On the night of June 15, Giant Planet will dangle just below the waxing gibbous Moon.
Then on Sunday, June 16—Father’s Day—bright Jupiter and the Moon meet. What a pair.
Look for the Giant Planet floating just above the Full Strawberry Moon. The Moon and Jupiter will shine bright all night long!
Conjunction of Mercury and Mars on June 18
Then, on the next night, turn your attention back to the western evening sky.
In early twilight, see a fabulous conjunction between orange Mercury and Mars on June 18. The two will be extremely close together in the evening sky.
You won’t confuse them because Mercury is much brighter than Mars.
Conjunction of the Moon and Saturn on June 18
One more? This conjunction is the only one that requires you to go out at midnight. The date is Tuesday, June 18.
Yes, the same night that the fabulous Mars/Mercury conjunction happened earlier, in the fading dusk.
On the opposite side of the sky after dark, the waning gibbous Moon shines with Saturn low in the east-southeast sky.
Look for the nearly full disk of the Moon; to the Moon’s upper left is a bright yellow-white “star”—that’s Saturn.
Saturn’s beautiful rings are tilted toward Earth at an inclination of 24 degrees. If you have large binoculars or a small telescope, the rings are easily seen!
Saturn has been looking stunning lately, so it’s a gorgeous site to see the planet dance with the Moon tonight.
Wow. All these bright planets, performing conjunctions with the Moon or each other. And the price is right.