On Tuesday night, June 22, look for twinkling Venus low in the northwestern sky about an hour after sundown. Planets are normally immune from twinkling because they show true disks compared to stars, which look like tiny points of light. It's a whole lot easier for turbulent air to "jiggle" starlight compared to a planet.

Venus is bright but low in the northwestern sky during evening twilight this month. Not far to its upper-left (about 12 degrees) you'll find Mars in binoculars. Pollux and Castor, the Gemini twins, are very low and will soon transition into the daytime sky. (Stellarium)
Venus is bright but low in the northwestern sky during evening twilight this month. Not far to its upper-left (about 12 degrees) you'll find Mars in binoculars. Pollux and Castor, the Gemini twins, are very low and will soon transition into the daytime sky. (Stellarium)

But two factors conspire to make Venus sputter like a candle flame: It's currently far from the Earth, so it looks tiny (more like a star), and it's also very low in the sky. Light from objects near the horizon must pass through much more air compared to viewing the same object overhead. All that extra air means added turbulence and more twinkling.

Mars glides in front of the Beehive Star Cluster on the nights of June 22-23. Look low in the west an hour to 90 minutes after sunset. This is a simulated binocular view. (Stellarium)
Mars glides in front of the Beehive Star Cluster on the nights of June 22-23. Look low in the west an hour to 90 minutes after sunset. This is a simulated binocular view. (Stellarium)

Once you find Venus in the darkening sky, take your binoculars and slide two binocular fields to the planet's upper left to spot Mars. Mars is easy to identify by its red hue. Tuesday night (June 22) and Wednesday, Mars will appear directly in front of the Beehive Cluster, also known as M 44, in Cancer.

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Also on Tuesday, June 22, the waxing gibbous moon will shine 3.5 degrees north of Antares, the brightest star in Scorpius the Scorpion. The red supergiant is 700 times the size of the sun and about 550 light years from Earth. (Stellarium)
Also on Tuesday, June 22, the waxing gibbous moon will shine 3.5 degrees north of Antares, the brightest star in Scorpius the Scorpion. The red supergiant is 700 times the size of the sun and about 550 light years from Earth. (Stellarium)

It's a pity this happens when both are so low in the western sky, but I encourage you to find a location with a good view in that direction and take a peek. Either binoculars or a small telescope will show this unique conjunction of a planet and star cluster.

Blue-white noctilucent and darker cirrus clouds are reflected in a lake north of Duluth, Minn., on June 19. (Bob King)
Blue-white noctilucent and darker cirrus clouds are reflected in a lake north of Duluth, Minn., on June 19. (Bob King)

I wrote about looking for the "night-shining" noctilucent clouds in this earlier post. Since that time, we've had at least four displays over northern Minnesota along with many sightings around the world, including a few at unusually low latitudes in Madrid and Valencia, Spain.

The best evening viewing time starts an hour after sunset and lasts about 45 minutes. For example, here in Duluth, Minnesota, the sun sets around 9:05 p.m. The clouds first appear around 10 p.m. and shine best between 10:15-10:30 p.m. If you're out at dawn, 4 a.m. is an ideal time to look. The June 19th display was amazing! The wispy clouds were bright and obvious and stood about 15 degrees high across the northern sky.

The sun rises over Lake Superior near Duluth, Minn., on June 21, the morning after the summer solstice, which occurred at 10:32 p.m. the night before. (Bob King)
The sun rises over Lake Superior near Duluth, Minn., on June 21, the morning after the summer solstice, which occurred at 10:32 p.m. the night before. (Bob King)

After writing about photographing the sun on the solstices and equinoxes I decided to do it. Still can't believe I waited this long. On June 21, I got up before sunrise and found a good location on a local beach with a good horizon to take pictures of the rising sun at it most northernmost point in the sky. I'll find my way back to the spot Sept. 22 for the fall equinox and again on Dec. 21, the first day of winter.

First of three! The sun rises at its northernmost point June 22. I took this with a wide-angle lens and left enough room to include the fall equinox and winter solstice sunrises. (Bob King)
First of three! The sun rises at its northernmost point June 22. I took this with a wide-angle lens and left enough room to include the fall equinox and winter solstice sunrises. (Bob King)

Then I'll add those images together to show the full range of the sun's swing over six months and share it with you when we celebrate the winter solstice.

"Astro" Bob King is a freelance writer for the Duluth News Tribune. Read more of his work at duluthnewstribune.com/astrobob.