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 30: Subtle Glow
The glowing band of the Milky Way arches high across the sky on summer nights. At nightfall, it stretches from almost due north, high across the east, to almost due south. It stands directly overhead by midnight. You must avoid city lights to see it.
July 31: Dog Days
Mid-summer is called the Dog Days because the “dog star,” Sirius, appears near the Sun. Since Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky, ancient skywatchers associated it with especially hot days.
August 1: Lunar Checkers
The Moon will jump over several stars and planets the next few evenings. The first is Spica, the brightest star of Virgo, which is to the left or upper left of the Moon this evening. Then come Mars, Saturn, and Zubenelgenubi, a star in Libra.
August 2: Moon and Mars
Mars stands close to the left of the Moon this evening. The planet, which is roughly half the size of Earth, looks like a bright orange star.
August 3: Moon and Companions
The first-quarter Moon snuggles close to two pinpoints of light this evening. A faint star with a great name, Zubenelgenubi, is close to the left of the Moon, with the brighter planet Saturn a little farther to the upper left.
August 4: Moon and Saturn
The giant planet Saturn stands to the right of the Moon this evening, and looks like a bright golden star. Saturn has more than 60 known moons of its own, including one with a thick, cold atmosphere and seas and lakes of liquid methane and ethane.
August 5: Moon and Antares
The bright orange star Antares, the leading light of Scorpius, is in the south at nightfall, directly below the Moon. It is at the heart of the scorpion’s curving body.
Check last week's tips if you missed a day.