This is an especially good month for conjunctions between the Moon and bright stars and planets. The Moon splits the gap between Mars and Spica on the night of the 5th, huddles close to Saturn a couple of nights later, then goes eye-to-eye with Aldebaran late in the month. As the Moon’s journey plays out, the summer constellations Scorpius and Sagittarius climb into good view in the southern sky. On moonless nights, the subtle glow of the Milky Way extends upward from these constellations, providing a breathtaking view for those who can escape the glow of city lights.
This Week's Stargazing Tips
July 22: Outcast Stars
The Big Dipper is in the northwest this evening, with the handle above the bowl. The five stars in the middle of the dipper are all related, but the stars at the tip of the handle and lip of the bowl move through the galaxy independently of the others.
July 23: Moon and Venus
Venus is in good view at first light tomorrow. The planet shines as the brilliant “morning star,” close to the left of the beautiful crescent Moon.
July 24: Sagittarius
A big, steaming teapot floats across the southern horizon on summer evenings: the constellation Sagittarius, the archer. To modern eyes, its brightest stars form a teapot, with the handle to the left and the spout to the right.
July 25: Hercules
Hercules, which is sometimes called the kneeling giant, stands high overhead this evening. None of its stars stand out. But you can find Hercules by picking out a square pattern of stars in the giant’s stomach known as the Keystone.
July 26: New Moon
The Moon is new today, so it is lost from sight as it crosses between Earth and the Sun. It will return to view in a couple of nights as a thin crescent shortly after sunset.
July 27: Hercules Cluster
The star cluster M13, in the constellation Hercules, is high overhead as darkness falls. This family of hundreds of thousands of stars is visible to the unaided eye as a smudge of light. Binoculars hint at its glory, as dozens of stars pop into view.
July 28: Sagittarius Nurseries
Teapot-shaped Sagittarius is low in the south-southeast as darkness falls. With binoculars, look just above its spout for two stellar nurseries, known as M8 and M20. They look like fuzzy patches of light. New stars are taking shape in these regions.
Check last week's tips if you missed a day.