What's In The Sky? - July 2021
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:
Southern Delta Aquariids
The Southern Delta Aquariid meteor shower will be active from 12 July to 23 August, with the peak rate of meteors occurring on 30 July. Average meteor rates are 15-20 meteors per hour, but through most of July the nearby moon will present some interference due to light pollution.
July 9th 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!
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.
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 nebulae and planetary nebulae 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 XX14g GoTo 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?
All objects described above can easily be seen with the suggested equipment from a dark sky site, a viewing location some distance away from city lights where light pollution and when bright moonlight does not overpower the stars.