The buzz

This year's sky show continues with a parade of planets

A night sky filled with stars.
(Photo via Shutterstock)

Everyone loves a parade, right? Lucky for us, the planets in our solar system are going to come into alignment for a parade of their own.

On June 3, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune will be aligned in the sky, according to Star Walk Astronomical News. The optimum time for viewing the planetary parade will be in the early morning hours just before dawn. Four of these planets —Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn — may be visible with the naked eye, but you will need high-powered binoculars or a telescope to catch a glimpse of Neptune and Uranus. And you likely will not be able to see all the planets at once. Mercury and Jupiter are located low on the horizon, close to the sun, which may hinder viewing. And seeing Neptune and Uranus can be difficult even with a telescope. While June 3 is considered the best timing opportunity for the United States, the line of planets will be visible for the days before and after this date as well.

If you miss the June 3 parade of planets, you'll have another chance to view a celestial alignment at the end of the month. On June 29, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will also be visible in the sky in the predawn hours, the Los Angeles Times reports. 

In between these two parades of planets in the night sky will be the summer solstice, which marks the official start of astronomical summer. Many of us consider Memorial Day weekend the unofficial start of summer, and meteorological summer begins on June 1. Solstices and equinoxes are yet another way we mark the start of the seasons, and this year's summer solstice will be June 20. 

The summer solstice is the day on which we experience the most daylight. On June 20, the sun will rise at 5:18 a.m. and set at 8:29 p.m., resulting in 15 hours, 11 minutes and 10 seconds of daylight. After the summer solstice, the days will gradually get shorter until the winter solstice on Dec. 21, when we will experience nine hours, 10 minutes and six seconds of daylight. 

A solstice occurs when Earth reaches its highest (in the summer) or lowest (in the winter) point in the sky at noon, according to the National Weather Service. This is why we experience the most daylight on the day of the summer solstice and the least daylight on the day of the winter solstice.

While astronomical summer and winter begin with a solstice, spring and fall start with an equinox. Both equinoxes and solstices are related to Earth's tilt and its relationship with the sun, which affects the amount of daylight we receive each day, NASA reports. An equinox occurs when the sun is directly above the Equator, meaning about half the planet is light and half the planet is dark. A solstice occurs when the Equator reaches its farthest point north or south of the sun's path.

The full moon for June will be just a day after the summer solstice, reaching its fullest point at 8:08 p.m. June 21. The June full moon is called the strawberry moon because June is typically when strawberries begin to redden and ripen, according to The Old Farmer's Almanac. The nicknames we use for the monthly full moons today are often seasonal in nature and were first coined by Native tribes. Other names Native tribes used for the June full moon include the berries ripen moon, the blooming moon, the egg laying moon and the green corn moon. 

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