Astronomy Essentials

June 2021 guide to the bright planets

Find these planets in June 2021: Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Venus, Mercury

Try Stellarium for a precise view from your location.

Click here for recommended almanacs, which provide precise rise and set times.

Moon guide to bright planets in June

Chart of the waning moon passing 4 morning planets in late May and early June 2021.
In late May and early June 2021, watch for the waning moon to pass to the south of the giant gas planets, Saturn and Jupiter. It’ll pass them again during the last week of June. Read more.
Chart of the young moon and the 2 evening planets, Venus and Mars.
The young waxing crescent moon sweeps to the north the blazing planet Venus and then the much fainter red planet Mars, before and during mid-June. Read more.
Chart of the moon and morning planets for June 2021.
During the last week of June 2021, watch for the moon to again sweep by the gas giants Saturn and Jupiter. Read more.

‘Ring of fire’ solar eclipse June 10

Animation showing the moon's shadow on Earth during the June 10, 2021 solar eclipse.
The small red dot shows the path of the annular solar eclipse on June 10, while the much-larger gray circle depicts the region of a partial solar eclipse. Read more about the eclipse.

Venus and Mars

The brightest planet Venus and red planet Mars remain fixtures of the early evening sky throughout June 2021. Although Mars looms higher up in the western sky after sunset – and stays out longer after dark – than Venus does, Mars will be the harder planet to spot. After all, Venus – the brightest of all planets – outshines Mars by more than a hundredfold.

Your best bet is to first spot dazzling Venus, as it pops out at dusk, way before any other bright star. You’ll likely find Venus blazing away quite low in your western sky some 40 to 45 minutes (or sooner) after sunset. Use this bright beacon to find your way to Mars, which comes out as evening twilight gives way to nightfall. Early in the month, you might not see Mars until after Venus sets. To find out Venus’ setting time, go to TimeandDate or Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Mars is fairly easy to see in a dark sky. But it’s best to seek out modestly-bright Mars at early evening, when it’s still relatively high above your western horizon. We give you fair warning! The red planet is only going to get fainter as this year progresses. In the months ahead, Mars will surely dim as – day by day – it lags farther behind Earth in the great race of the planets, and sinks closer to the setting sun.

At mid-northern latitudes, Mars sets about one hour after nightfall (end of astronomical twilight) in early June, and around nightfall by the month’s end.

At temperate latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, Mars sets about 1 1/2 hours (90 minutes) after nightfall in early June, and about one hour after nightfall by the month’s end.

Find out both the sunset time and the time of nightfall (end of astronomical twilight) via TimeandDate.com

While Mars is sinking toward the setting sun by the day, Venus is climbing upward, away from the sunset. Next month, these two worlds will meet up for a close-knit conjunction on July 13, 2021. After that, Venus will supplant Mars as the higher evening planet.

Mars, though nominally an evening planet until October 2021, will likely be out of sight and out of mind by August 2021. By that time, expect Mars to succumb to the glow of evening twilight.

Read more: What to expect from Mars in 2021

On the other hand, Venus boldly shines in the evening sky for the rest of this year, to reach its greatest elongation from the sun on October 29, 2021 (see diagram below), and to attain its greatest brilliance as the evening “star” around the time of the new moon on December 4, 2021. Circle this date on your calendar, and see if it’s true that Venus can cast a shadow on a dark night!

Diagram showing positions of Venus in orbit and its phases at inferior and superior conjunction.
In this view, Venus and all the planets travel counterclockwise around the sun. Venus, being an inferior planet, shows phases just like the moon. It has swept to the far side of the sun (at superior conjunction) on March 26, 2021, to exit the morning sky and to enter the evening sky. Venus will reach its greatest eastern (evening) elongation from the sun (half Venus) on October 29, 2021. Then on January 9, 2022, Venus will go between the Earth and sun, at inferior conjunction, to exit the evening sky and to enter the morning sky. Image via UCLA.

Jupiter and Saturn

You can find giant planet Jupiter and ringed Saturn in June 2021 late at night and in the hours before sunrise. If you’re a night owl, you might catch these two planets low in your southeast sky before bedtime. The early bird still has the advantage, though, as these two worlds appear much higher up in the sky during the predawn hours.

Saturn rises first. At mid-northern latitudes, Saturn comes up around local midnight at the beginning of the month, and around mid-evening by the month’s end. (By midnight, we mean midway between sunset and sunrise.) Jupiter follows Saturn into the sky about an hour later.

At temperate latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, Saturn rises around mid-to-late evening in early June, and by the month’s end, comes up at early-to-mid evening evening. Jupiter follows Saturn into the sky around 1 1/2 hours later.

For more specific information on when Jupiter and Saturn rise into your sky, consult either The Old Farmer’s Almanac (U.S. and Canada) or TimeandDate.com (worldwide).

Use the moon to help guide you to Jupiter and Saturn in late May and early June 2021, and then again late in the month, from about June 27 to 29.

Mercury

Mercury – the innermost planet – isn’t easily visible in June 2021. This planet is low in the west after sunset when the month begins. It’ll exit the evening sky and enter the morning sky when it passes between the Earth and sun (at inferior conjunction) on June 11, 2021. Alert sky watchers have a chance to catch Mercury in the morning sky – in the east before sunrise – by the last week of June. By early July, Mercury will appear more easily visible in the east before the sun. The waning moon will point to it, and pass near it, on July 5, 6, 7 and 8. Read more about Mercury in early July.

Diagram showing solar system from above, and Mercury at eastern and western elongation.
Not to scale. Mercury’s mean distance from the sun is about 0.39 times Earth’s distance from the sun. We’re looking down from the north side of the solar system plane. In this view, Mercury and Earth circle the sun in a counterclockwise direction. Earth and Mercury also rotate on their axes counterclockwise as seen from the north side of the solar system. At its greatest eastern elongation, Mercury is seen in the west after sunset; and at its greatest western elongation, Mercury is seen in the east before sunrise.

What do we mean by bright planet?

By bright planet, we mean any solar system planet that is easily visible without an optical aid and that has been watched by our ancestors since time immemorial. In their outward order from the sun, the five bright planets are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. These planets actually do appear bright in our sky. They are typically as bright as – or brighter than – the brightest stars. Plus, these relatively nearby worlds tend to shine with a steadier light than the distant, twinkling stars. You can spot them, and come to know them as faithful friends, if you try.

Silhouette of a man against the sunset sky with a bright planet and the crescent moon.
Skywatcher. Image via Predrag Agatonovic.

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Bottom line: All you need to know about how to find the bright planets of the solar system during the month of June.

Posted 
May 31, 2021
 in 
Astronomy Essentials

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