You are here

In the Sky This Month

A triplet highlights the short nights of July, formed by the planets Mars and Saturn and the star Antares. Under even moderately dark skies, all three show a bit of color. Mars and Antares are orange, while Saturn has a golden hue. Antares is the brightest star of Scorpius, one of summer’s best-known denizens. The scorpion’s hook-shaped body curls to the lower left of Antares, with teapot-shaped Sagittarius to the right of Scorpius. Under dark skies, the Milky Way rises from the teapot’s spout like steam.

July 23: The Stinger

The celestial scorpion has a potent stinger. The two stars at the end of its tail, which mark the stinger, are bright, big, and heavy. And at least one of them is likely to suffer a sting of its own: it will explode as a supernova.

July 24: Scorpius Clusters

The big, beautiful star clusters M6 and M7 stand just above the stars that mark the scorpion’s stinger. M7 is the brighter of the two. Under dark skies, it looks like a small, fuzzy patch of light. Smaller M6 is to its upper right.

July 25: Scutum

The constellation Scutum stands to the upper left of teapot-shaped Sagittarius as night falls. Under dark skies, you can see that it is enwrapped in the hazy veil of the Milky Way.

July 26: Delta Aquarid Meteors

The Delta Aquarid meteor shower is at its best this week. Its “shooting stars” appear to rain into Earth’s atmosphere from the constellation Aquarius. The meteors can appear in any direction, however, so it is best to scan the entire sky.

July 27: North Star

Polaris, the North Star, always stands due north and is always at the same altitude in the sky. That altitude tells you your latitude in the northern hemisphere. If you’re at 40 degrees, for example, Polaris is 40 degrees above the horizon.

July 28: Vanishing Act

The crescent Moon cozies up to the star Aldebaran before dawn tomorrow. In fact, as seen from parts of the United States, the Moon will get especially cozy. It will “occult” the star, passing directly in front of it and blocking it from view.

July 29: Milky Way

The glowing band of the Milky Way arches high across the sky on these mid-summer nights. At nightfall, it stretches from almost due north, high across the east, to almost due south. You need to get away from the glow of city lights to see it.

Current moon phase

New MoonNew July 4, 6:01 am

First QuarterFirst July 11, 7:52 pm

Full MoonFull July 19, 5:57 pm

Last quarterLast July 25, 6:00 pm

Times are U.S. Central Time.

Perigee July 1, July 27

Apogee July 13

The full Moon of July is known as the Hay Moon or Thunder Moon.