The night sky tonight and on any clear night offers an ever-changing display of fascinating objects you can see, from stars and constellations to bright planets, often the moon, and sometimes special events like meteor showers. Observing the night sky can be done with no special equipment, although a sky map can be very useful, and a good beginner telescope or binoculars will enhance some experiences and bring some otherwise invisible objects into view. You can also use astronomy accessories to make your observing easier., and use our Satellite Tracker page powered by N2YO.com to find out when to see the International Space Station and other satellites. Below, find out what's up in the night sky tonight (Planets Visible Now, Moon Phases, Observing Highlights This Month) plus other resources (Skywatching Terms, Night Sky Observing Tips and Further Reading).
Monthly skywatching information is provided to Space.com by Geoff Gaherty of Starry Night Education, the leader in space science curriculum solutions. Follow Starry Night on Twitter @StarryNightEdu.
Editor's note: If you have an amazing skywatching photo you'd like to share for a possible story or image gallery, please contact managing editor Tariq Malik at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Summer Stargazing Tips
'Finest' Double Stars, Bright Cluster and Planets In June 2016 Skywatching | Video
The constellation of Boötes (the Herdsman) is home to double star Epsilon Boötis - also known as Izar. Through binoculars the color contrast of the stars can be amazing.
Saturday, June 4, 11:00 p.m. EDT
The Moon is not visible on the date of New Moon because it is too close to the Sun, but can be seen low in the East as a narrow crescent a morning or two before, just before sunrise. It is visible low in the West an evening or two after New Moon.
Sunday, June 12, 4:10 a.m. EDT
First Quarter Moon
The First Quarter Moon rises around 12:30 p.m. and sets around 1:40 a.m. It dominates the evening sky.
Monday, June 20, 7:02 a.m. EDT
The June Full Moon is known as the Mead Moon, Strawberry Moon, Rose Moon, or Thunder Moon. It rises around sunset and sets around sunrise; this is the only night in the month when the Moon is in the sky all night long. The rest of the month, the Moon spends at least some time in the daytime sky.
Monday, June 27, 2:19 p.m. EDT
Last Quarter Moon
The Last Quarter Moon rises around 1:00 a.m. and sets around 1:30 p.m. It is most easily seen just after sunrise in the southern sky.
Saturn at opposition
Friday, June 3, 3:00 a.m. EDT
Saturn is directly opposite the Sun in the sky, and is visible all night long.
Mercury north of Moon
Friday, June 3, dawn
Mercury rises just before the Sun, about a degree north of the Moon, making it easy to spot.
Mercury at greatest elongation West
Sunday, June 5, 5:00 a.m. EDT
Mercury will be at its greatest distance from the Sun in a westward direction. This is a fair apparition for southern observers, but a poor one for northerners, as Mercury is still close to the horizon at sunrise.
Jupiter west of Moon
Saturday, June 11, sunset
Jupiter will be just west of the waxing crescent Moon at sunset.
Monday, June 20, 6:34 p.m. EDT
The Sun reaches its farthest declination north, marking midsummer in the Northern Hemisphere and midwinter in the South.
Mercury will be visible low on the eastern horizon just before sunrise early in the month, reaching maximum elongation on June 5.
Venus is too close to the Sun to be observed.
Mars was in opposition to the Sun on May 22, and closest to Earth on May 30, so continues to dominate the evening sky in Libra. Saturn is nearby in Ophiuchus.
Jupiter is well placed in the evening sky in Leo. It sets after midnight.
Saturn is in opposition on June 3 in Ophiuchus. Being directly opposite the Sun, it is visible all night. The rings are spread wide, making it a beautiful sight in any telescope.
Uranus, in Pisces, rises around 2:30 a.m., and is visible the rest of the night.
Neptune, in Aquarius, rises around 1 a.m., and is visible the rest of the night.
- Asterism: A noteworthy or striking pattern of stars within a larger constellation.
- Degrees (measuring the sky): The sky is 360 degrees all the way around, which means roughly 180 degrees from horizon to horizon. It’s easy to measure distances between objects: Your fist on an outstretched arm covers about 10 degrees of sky.
- Visual Magnitude: This is the astronomer’s scale for measuring the brightness of objects in the sky. The dimmest object visible in the night sky under perfectly dark conditions is about magnitude 6.5. Brighter stars are magnitude 2 or 1. The brightest objects get negative numbers. Venus can be as bright as magnitude minus 4.9. The full moon is minus 12.7 and the sun is minus 26.8.
- Terminator: The boundary on the moon between sunlight and shadow.
- Zenith: The point in the sky directly overhead.
Night Sky Observing Tips
- Adjust to the dark: If you wish to observe faint objects, such as meteors or dim stars, give your eyes at least 15 minutes to adjust to the darkness.
- Light Pollution: Even from a big city, one can see the moon, a handful of bright stars and sometimes the brightest planets. But to fully enjoy the heavens — especially a meteor shower, the constellations, or to see the amazing swath across the sky that represents our view toward the center of the Milky Way Galaxy — rural areas are best for night sky viewing. If you’re stuck in a city or suburban area, a building can be used to block ambient light (or moonlight) to help reveal fainter objects. If you’re in the suburbs, simply turning off outdoor lights can help.
- Prepare for skywatching: If you plan to be out for more than a few minutes, and it’s not a warm summer evening, dress warmer than you think necessary. An hour of observing a winter meteor shower can chill you to the bone. A blanket or lounge chair will prove much more comfortable than standing or sitting in a chair and craning your neck to see overhead.
- Daytime skywatching: When Venus is visible (that is, not in front of or behind the sun) it can often be spotted during the day. But you’ll need to know where to look. A sky map is helpful. When the sun has large sunspots, they can be seen without a telescope. However, it’s unsafe to look at the sun without protective eyewear. See our video on how to safely observe the sun, or our safe sunwatching infographic.