What's in the Sky - July 2020
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:
Gas Giants at Opposition
Jupiter and Saturn both reach opposition one week apart this year, making July the perfect opportunity for planetary viewing! Opposition is when the Earth passes directly between a planet and the Sun. This coincides with the planets closest approach to Earth, providing an excellent opportunity for great views in a telescope. Both planets are easy to find in the Southern sky, about 7 degrees apart from each other. Jupiter reaches opposition on July 14th, and Saturn about a week later on the 20th. During opposition Saturn?s rings will be inclined at 21 degrees towards Earth, close to their maximum angle of 27 degrees. Combined with the planet's close approach to Earth, this makes July an excellent time to observe Saturn and its rings!
Grab a high magnification eyepiece or a Barlow lens, and check out the gas giants during opposition!
July 20th 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.