In the Sky This Month

In the Sky This Month


Although July offers warm, dry conditions for skywatching, it also provides some of the shortest nights of the year in the northern hemisphere, limiting the hours under the stars. Fortunately, some of the best skywatching sights are visible in the early evening, not long after sunset. Venus reigns as the Evening Star all month, slowly climbing the western sky. Mercury peeks into view below Venus for much of the month, with the star Regulus close to both of them.

July 10: Sagittarius

The constellation Sagittarius climbs low across the south on summer evenings. Its brightest stars form the outline of a teapot. The center of the Milky Way galaxy lies just above the spout of the teapot, about 27,000 light-years away.

July 11: Solar Highway

The “solar highway” curves low across the south on July evenings, outlining the path the Sun will follow during fall and winter. It is marked by some of the brightest objects in the night sky, including the planets Venus, Jupiter, and Mars.

July 12: Mercury at Elongation

The little planet Mercury stands farthest from the Sun for its current evening appearance tonight. It looks like a fairly bright star quite low in the west as darkness falls.

July 13: Nurseries

Teapot-shaped Sagittarius is in the southeast at nightfall. The steam above the teapot’s spout includes two nebulae that are giving birth to new star clusters: M8 (the Lagoon Nebula) and M20 (the Trifid Nebula).

July 14: Evening Quartet

The Moon, two planets, and a bright star line up in the west as night falls. The planet Mercury is close below the Moon. Venus, the “evening star,” is to the upper left of the Moon. Regulus, the heart of Leo, the lion, lines up between the Moon and Venus.

July 15: Moon and Venus

Venus, the dazzling “evening star,” lines up close to the crescent Moon this evening. Venus shines so brightly in part because it’s quite close, and in part because it’s blanketed by brilliant clouds.

July 16: Delphinus

Delphinus, the dolphin, is in good view in the east at nightfall. This tiny pattern of stars really does look like a dolphin. Look for it swimming into view in the east as darkness falls, and climbing high across the south during the night.