What's in the Sky — July 2019
Get ready for summer stargazing! With weather warming up, July is a great time of year to enjoy relaxing evenings under starry skies with your telescope or astronomy binoculars. Here are a few of Orion's top picks for July stargazing:
Saturn at Opposition
Saturn will shine brightly for most of July, and reaches opposition on July 9th. Opposition is when the Earth passes directly between Saturn and the Sun. Since Saturn will be directly opposite the Sun in the sky as seen from Earth, the ringed planet will rise at sunset and set at sunrise, providing an excellent opportunity for great views in a telescope.
Saturn also makes a close approach to the Moon on July 16th, and should be close enough to fit both bodies in the field of view of most telescopes.
During opposition Saturn's rings will be inclined at 24 degrees to us, close to their maximum angle of 27 degrees. Combined with the planets close approach to Earth, this makes July an excellent time to observe Saturn and its rings!
July 2nd is the darkest night of the month and therefore the best time to observe the more faint objects like galaxies and star clusters. Grab your observing gear and enjoy!
July Close Approaches
|The Moon & M44||0°31'||08:44 PDT||July 4|
|The Moon & Jupiter||2°17'||13:31 PDT||July 13|
|The Moon & Saturn||0°13'||00:16 PDT||July 16|
|The Moon & Pluto||0°02'||10:17 PDT||July 16|
Hercules almost directly overhead and Scorpius
With constellation Hercules almost directly overhead and Scorpius to the south, there's plenty to see in July skies as summer continues. Check out globular star clusters M13 and M92 in Hercules, and explore Scorpius to find numerous deep-sky objects including open clusters M6 and M7, and globular clusters M4 and M80.
Late July Meteors
July winds down with the Delta Aquarids meteor shower. For the best chance to see meteors, look towards Aquarius after midnight on July 29th into the early morning hours of July 29th. The Delta Aquarids is an average shower that can produce up to 20 meteors per hour. A 27 day old moon should present minimal light interference to enjoying the meteors!
The Summer Milky Way
From a dark sky location in mid-July, the glorious Summer Milky Way shines as a band of light that stretches from the southern horizon to nearly overhead. As the night progresses, the Milky Way will arch across the entire sky. From a dark observing site, scan the Milky Way with 50mm or larger binoculars or a wide-angle telescope to explore some of the hundreds of open star clusters, emission nebulas and planetary nebulas that lurk among the star clouds.
July Challenge Object — Hercules Galaxy Cluster
About half a billion light years from Earth in the constellation Hercules, not far from the star Beta Hercules in the southwest corner of the "keystone" asterism, lies the "Hercules Galaxy Cluster." This association is a group of 200-300 distant galaxies, the brightest of which is NGC 6050 at about 10th magnitude and can be seen with an 8" reflector like the Orion SkyQuest XT8 Classic Dobsonian under very dark skies with good seeing conditions. A larger aperture, 14"-16" telescope like the Orion SkyQuest XX14i IntelliScope Truss Dobsonian will begin to show about a half-dozen or more galaxies in one field-of-view. How many can you see in your telescope?