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.
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In the Sky This Month
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.
July 30: M22
M22, a cluster of a half-million stars, stands above teapot-shaped Sagittarius, which wheels low across the south tonight. Under dark skies, M22 looks like a faint, hazy star. It is about 10,000 light-years away.
July 31: Sun Walk
We can see where the Sun is headed over the next few months by following some bright lights across the early evening sky: the planet Jupiter, the star Spica, and the planets Mars and Saturn. These dots lie along the Sun’s path, known as the ecliptic.
August 1: Lammas
August 1st is the date of an English festival called Lammas, which celebrated the year’s first harvest. It is a cross-quarter day, which comes half-way between a solstice and an equinox. It marked the beginning of autumn.
August 2: Deneb
Deneb, the tail of the swan, stands high in the east-northeast at nightfall, at the left point of the bright Summer Triangle. The rest of the swan stretches to its right, with the body parallel to the horizon and the wings above and below.
August 3: Evening Mars
Look for the planet Mars low in the southern sky this evening, blazing like an orange star. The planet Saturn and the star Antares are off to its left, with Saturn the brighter of the two.
August 4: Venus Rising
Venus is rising slowly into view. This evening, it’s just a few degrees above the western horizon about 20 or 30 minutes after sunset. The crescent Moon stands to the upper left of the “evening star,” also quite low in the sky.