Look up tomorrow! Mars and Venus will both shine brightly in the night sky on the summer solstice – here’s how to see them
- Mars and Venus will shine in the sky when tomorrow is the first day of summer
- It will only be another month before these planets align with Mercury as well
- A ‘Da Vinci’ glow may also be visible around the Moon after the summer solstice
Lucky stargazers may spot two planets tomorrow, after many head out to celebrate the annual summer solstice.
As Wednesday officially marks the first day of summer, Mars and Venus will shine brightly in the night sky – just a month before aligning themselves with Mercury in a mini “planetary parade.”
The summer solstice occurs when the Earth’s tilt towards the sun is at its peak, making tomorrow the longest day of the year.
Venus, Mars and the moon will be visible to those in London as they move toward the western horizon around 10pm GMT, according to Stellarium Graphs.
But US-based stargazers may wait a while to see the trio clearly, as darkness sets in around 3 a.m. CST.
Venus, Mars and the moon will be visible to those in London as they move toward the western horizon around 10pm (GMT), according to Stellarium maps
Two solstice events take place every year, with a ‘summer solstice’ in June and a ‘winter solstice’ every December.
At this time, the sun is above the Tropic of Cancer in the Northern Hemisphere, the northernmost latitude it reaches each year.
Meanwhile, the North Pole has also tilted sharply toward the sun, extending the number of daylight hours experienced by more northerly countries.
On June 21, the UK could experience more than 16 hours of daylight, while the Arctic is likely to experience a 24-hour ‘polar day’ of full light.
In contrast, more southern countries will experience their shortest day of the year with drastically fewer hours of light.
While Venus and Mars should be visible once darkness sets in, it’s important to bring binoculars or a telescope to a good spot to watch the stars.
NASA also recommends checking the weather forecast ahead of time to find a clear area.
This should also provide an unobstructed view of the horizon, avoiding buildings and blaring city lights.
To distinguish between stars and planets, observers must look for objects that do not twinkle among the flickering stars.
The June solstice occurs when the Earth’s tilt towards the sun is at its peak, making tomorrow the longest day of the year
Reports suggest that many will also get the chance to see the moon’s eerie Da Vinci glow
But don’t worry if you miss the spectacle.
There will be another spectacle in the coming days, with the moon expected to give off an eerie Da Vinci glow.
This phenomenon is aptly named after the acclaimed Italian researcher who solved the mystery more than 500 years ago.
It occurs when sunlight is reflected off the Earth onto the surface of the Moon and then back into our eyes.
Professor Don Pollacco, University of Warwick Department of Physics, explained: ‘When the moon is a thin crescent you can often see the dark part of the moon shining faintly.
‘At first glance this seems rather mysterious, since the crescent is the part of the moon that is illuminated by the sun – so where does the light from the unlit part of the moon come from?
‘What we actually see is light from the Earth being reflected by the moon! Hence the name Earthshine.’
The phases of the moon
Like the Earth, the moon has a day side and a night side, which change as the moon rotates.
The sun always illuminates half of the moon while the other half remains dark, but how much of that illuminated half we can see changes as the moon travels through its orbit.
In the northern hemisphere, the phases of the moon are:
1. New Moon
This is the invisible phase of the moon, with the illuminated side of the moon facing the sun and the night side facing the Earth.
2. Waxing Crescent Moon
This silver sliver of a moon occurs when the illuminated half of the moon is mostly pointed away from Earth, with only a small portion visible to us from our planet.
3. First quarter
The Moon is now a quarter of its monthly journey and you see half of its illuminated side.
4. Waxing Gibbous
Now most of the moon’s day side has come into view and the moon appears brighter in the sky.
5. Full Moon
This is the closest thing to seeing the sun’s illumination from the full day side of the moon.
6. Waning Gibbous
As the moon begins its journey back to the sun, the far side of the moon now reflects the moon’s light.
7. Last quarter
The moon looks like it’s half lit from Earth’s perspective, but in reality you’re seeing half of the half of the moon being lit by the sun — or a quarter.
8. Waning Crescent Moon
The Moon is almost back to the point in its orbit where the day side is pointed directly at the Sun, and all we see from our perspective is a thin curve.