June New Moon 2018: See Venus, Mercury and More in the Moonless Sky

The new moon arrives in the first half of June, and as our satellite becomes visible in the evening sky after that, it will join Mercury, Venus and other visible planets.The moon will officially enter new phase at 3:43 p.m. EDT (1943 GMT) on June 13. A new moon occurs when the moon is between the sun and Earth. Technically, both objects are on the same north-south line that passes through the celestial pole, near the star Polaris. (This is also called a conjunction, as applied to other celestial bodies, so you could say the sun and the moon are in conjunction with each other.)Invisible to Earthbound observers, the new moon rises and sets at nearly the same time as the sun. The only time the new moon is visible is during partial or total solar eclipses, when the moon passes exactly between Earth and the sun. That isn’t happening this time. (The next partial solar eclipse will be on July 13, and the next total solar eclipse will be on July 2, 2019.) While sometimes the dark side of the thin crescent moon is visible because of “Earthshine” — the light reflected back onto the moon from the Earth – this isn’t the case for the new moon because the sun is so close to it. On the night of June 14, a day after the moon is new, it will rise at 6:19 a.m. and set at 9:26 p.m. local time in New York City. It will be a very thin crescent rising after the sun, which comes up at 5:24 a.m. The moon will be tough to spot, and observers must take care when looking for objects so close to the sun so as not to damage their eyes.

In mid-June, Venus is still the “evening star,” and it will remain so for several months for midnorthern-latitude observers. As the new crescent moon becomes visible on June 14, Venus will set at 10:59 p.m. in New York, according to heavens-above.com.

Venus is bright, and just after sunset on the day after the new moon, it will be about 26 degrees high in the west-southwestern sky. (Your clenched fist held at arm’s length measures about 10 degrees.) Venus will be at magnitude -3.9, which is as bright as some aircraft; the planet is consistently the third-brightest object in the sky, after the sun and the moon. Venus will even be visible when the sky is still relatively light — as soon as a half-hour after the sun sets, when it will still be about 19 degrees above the horizon.

Joining Venus and the moon will be Mercury, which is usually hard to seebecause of its proximity to the sun. On the evening of the new moon, both Venus and Mercury will be visible in the evening, but Mercury, though bright, will appear very close to the sun in the sky. At sunset on June 13, Mercury will be only 5.5 degrees above the horizon, and the planet will set only 34 minutes after the sun does.

Mercury will be a little easier to spot the evening after the new moon, on June 14. The moon will pass by Mercury in the sky that afternoon, and the two will set just minutes apart almost an hour after the sun dips below the horizon. So, just after sunset, a keen-eyed observer with a flat, clear horizon, no clouds and minimal humidity (which makes objects in the sky shimmer) might catch the innermost planet just to the west of the thin crescent moon.

Tracking Mercury gets easier as the month progresses, as the planet moves eastward (from the perspective of Earth), farther from the sun, and becomes a more prominent evening sight. By the end of June, Mercury will be 15 degrees above the horizon at sunset as seen from midnorthern latitudes. The planet will reach its greatest eastern elongation — the farthest distance east of the sun — on July 18.

The inner planets aren’t the only ones visible on the night of the new moon; Jupiter will rise before sunset, at 5:09 p.m. in New York. And when the sun falls below the horizon, the king of planets will be about a third of the way up in the sky, in the constellation Libra. Jupiter won’t be as bright as Venus, but it will be -2.3 magnitude, making it quite visible even in light-polluted areas. (The lower the magnitude, the brighter the object.)

After Jupiter, the next planet to grace the skies will be Saturn, which will rise on June 13 at 9:18 p.m. in New York. Saturn will be in the constellation Sagittarius, which will also feature some of the brighter portions of the Milky Way. From midnorthern latitudes, Saturn will be rather low in the sky; the planet will reach its highest point just before 2 a.m. in New York, and it will be about 27 degrees above the southern horizon — higher than most obstructions and lights.

Saturn will be followed by Mars, which, in New York, will rise at about 11:33 p.m. on June 13. The Red Planet will cross the meridian, its highest point in the sky, by about 4:15 a.m., in the constellation Capricorn. Mars will be at magnitude -1.6, second only to Sirius (the dog star) in brightness, and its distinct reddish hue makes it instantly recognizable.

Southern Hemisphere observers are getting into the winter months, so the length of the day is much shorter. That means a longer period of nighttime for stargazers. However, some planets, such as Venus, will actually set sooner, since the plane of the ecliptic — the path the sun, moon and planets follow across the sky — is at a different angle relative to the horizon than in the Northern hemisphere.

In Sydney, Venus will set at 7:33 p.m. on June 14, or the day of the new moon in that time zone, according to heavens-above.com. However, the other planets will be much higher than that for Northern Hemisphere skywatchers. Mars, for example, will be 78 degrees above the horizon in the early hours of June 15, when it crosses the meridian at about 3:10 a.m. local time in Sydney.

Jupiter, which will rise in Sydney on June 14 at 2:32 p.m., will be as much as 71 degrees above the horizon, and Saturn will also be as much as 78 degrees up. Even for city-bound observers, this will make it relatively easy to spot the outer planets, and even a modest pair of binoculars on a tripod will reveal Saturn’s characteristic oval shape. (It takes about 20x magnification to see the rings as separate structures.)

While new moons don’t often get the same mythological treatment as full moons, this one has a special significance in the Islamic world, as it marks the end of Ramadan, when Muslims traditionally fast during the day from sunrise to sunset. For Jewish people, the June new moon is the start of the month of Tammuz, which is on June 12 (the day before the moon is technically new).

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