Summertime! Long days, short warm evenings, is there a better season to enjoy the night? This is the time of year to have friends round for a barbecue during the day, then fire up the chimenea for a little warmth and light and stay outside long into the night, under a blanket of twinkling stars. Perfect!
But what is there for you to see? There’s always something worth craning your necks for in our ever changing night sky, and whether you’re just an occasional Moon watcher or a more avid amateur astronomer, we’ve listed below a little something for everyone in our monthly astronomy guide for July.
Keep watching the skies!
Tuesday 1st July - Now is probably the best time of year to watch out for noctilucent clouds, which sometimes appear low down in the northwest (after sunset) and northeast (just before sunrise)
These clouds are in the upper atmosphere and are usually too faint to see, becoming visible only when illuminated by sunlight from below the horizon while the lower layers of the atmosphere are in the Earth’s shadow
Friday 4th July – Minor planet Pluto is at opposition in the constellation Sagittarius, and the Earth is also at Aphelion, the furthest point out in it’s orbit from the Sun (at a distance of 152 million kilometres or 94.5 million miles)
Monday 7th July - This evening the waxing gibbous Moon lies just below beautiful ring-world Saturn. See if you can spot them together low down towards the West after it’s got dark
Saturday 12th July - The Full Moon in the sky today is also sometimes known as the Summer Moon, Crane Moon or Rose Moon
And inner planet Mercury is at greatest western elongation, but the long morning twilight in the approach to sunrise means it is not easily seen from more northern latitudes
Sunday 13th July - The near Full Moon is at Perigee today at a distance of 358,260 km (222,612 miles), the closest point of its orbit to the Earth
Wednesday 16th July - To help identify the summer constellations you can see throughout the month, below we’ve provided constellation guides for southern and northern skies in July, shown as seen at 00:00 UTC (01:00 BST) on 16th July
Saturday 19th July - This morning our Moon is seen at Last Quarter phase
Monday 21st July - Strange asterism “the coathanger” can be spotted high up due South around midnight this evening. Clearly visible through binoculars or a small telescope, Brocchi’s Cluster is a beautiful sight, and is easily located midway between the right edges of constellations Vulpecula and Sagitta
We were lucky enough to catch a Perseid meteor flashing near to Brocchi’s Cluster in August 2012. The easiest way to find it with binoculars is to locate bright star Vega (at the top of the constellation Lyra) and slowly move them diagonally down and to the left
This cluster sits well within the band of the Milky Way, which you should also be able to see crossing the night sky (if your skies are dark enough!) and with the Moon almost out of the way now is a good time to have a look for it!
Thursday 24th July - One for the early risers today, a sliver of crescent Moon sits just to the right of bright planet Venus before sunrise this morning. If your eastern horizon is flat enough you may get a glimpse of Mercury into the bargain! If anyone gets any photographs of this close gathering please tweet them to us!
And gas giant Jupiter is in conjunction with the Sun today, so will be unobservable until the middle of August when it reappears in the sky as an early morning object
Saturday 26th July - The New Moon rises with (and sets just after) the Sun today, so now is a good time to observe deep sky objects when the skies are unaffected by moonlight
Monday 28th July – Today the Moon is at Apogee at a distance of 406,570 km (252,631 miles) the furthest point out in its orbit around the Earth this month
As usual, if you take any photos throughout July you’d like to show us, please tweet them to us using the link below! We’d love to see your efforts and we’ll re-tweet them to your fellow sky-watchers!
Planets visible this month:
Remember, it can take your eyes up to 20 minutes to become properly dark adapted, and anything up to an hour for a telescope to reach ambient temperature outside (to ensure the best image), so give yourself plenty of time to get set up!
To make it easier to find this list of astronomical happenings you can also locate it in the “Monthly Guide” section in the menu bar to the right. Handy! :)
Guide images created with Stellarium