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 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.
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.