In the Sky This Month

By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes... hehe :)

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 24: Mars and Company

The planet Saturn is the bright star-like point of light just below the Moon at nightfall. Its broad, bright rings are tilted into good view, so they reflect a lot of sunlight, enhancing the giant planet’s luster.

July 25: Martian Opposition

Mars is at opposition this week, passing closer to Earth than it will for many years. It is in the southeast as night falls. It looks like a brilliant orange star, outshining all but the Moon and the planet Venus.

July 26: Lunar Eclipse

The Moon will pass through Earth’s shadow tomorrow, creating an eclipse, although it won’t be visible from the U.S. Our consolation is that the Moon will be close to Mars. It looks like a brilliant orange star, to the lower left of the Moon at nightfall.

July 27: Moon and Mars

Mars and the full Moon stick close together tonight. Mars looks like a brilliant orange star, outshining all but the Moon and the planet Venus. It perches close to the lower right of the Moon at nightfall.

July 28: Albireo

Albireo represents the beak of Cygnus, the swan, which is in good view on summer nights. The constellation is high in the east at nightfall, with its body parallel to the horizon. Bright Deneb is at the left end of the body, with Albireo at the right.

July 29: Vindemiatrix

Vindemiatrix, the third-brightest star of Virgo, is in the southwest at nightfall. It is far to the upper right of Spica, Virgo’s brightest star. Vindemiatrix is a bloated star that has completed the “normal” portion of its life.

July 30: Future North Star

About 2,000 years from now, Earth’s north pole will aim toward the star Gamma Cephei instead of Polaris, the current North Star. Gamma Cephei is one of the brightest stars of Cepheus, which is in the northeast this evening.