Venus and Jupiter, the brightest points of light in the night sky, dominate the early evening hours for most of the month. They are especially close together as the month begins, but remain close until late July. By the time they set, the two signature constellations of summer, Sagittarius and Scorpius, are in good view in the southern sky. The brightest stars of Sagittarius form a teapot, while those of Scorpius form the curved body and barbed tail of a scorpion.
This Week's Stargazing Tips
July 6: Steady Sun
If the Sun were to suddenly wink out of existence (which is impossible, by the way), we wouldn’t know it for more than eight minutes. The Sun is 93 million miles away, and it takes light more than eight minutes to cross that distance.
July 7: Keystone
A wedge-shaped pattern of stars known as the Keystone stands high overhead late this evening in Hercules. It stands to the upper right of Vega, one of the brightest stars in the summer sky.
July 8: Last-Quarter Moon
The Moon is at last-quarter at 3:24 p.m. CDT. The Moon stands at a right angle to the line from Earth to the Sun, so sunlight illuminates half of the lunar hemisphere that faces our way.
July 9: Trifid
The Trifid Nebula is a glowing cloud of gas and dust in teapot-shaped Sagittarius, which scoots low across the south on summer nights. A young star at the center of the nebula is triggering the births of more than 100 other stars.
July 10: Epsilon Lyrae
The double star Epsilon Lyrae is easy to find because it is close to the bright star Vega, which shines high in the east at nightfall and overhead around midnight. Epsilon Lyrae is a short distance from Vega. Binoculars reveal its double nature.
July 11: Moon and Aldebaran
The bright star Aldebaran stands close to the lower left of the crescent Moon at dawn tomorrow. It is the orange eye of Taurus, the bull. Although it originally was similar to the Sun, today Aldebaran has ballooned to giant proportions.
July 12: Stairsteps
Three tiny constellations stairstep up the eastern sky at nightfall. From bottom to top, they are Equuleus, the little horse; Delphinus, the dolphin; and Sagitta, the arrow. Under dark skies, both Delphinus and Sagitta are easy to pick out.
Check last week's tips if you missed a day.