What’s Up in the Sky
AAA Observers’ July Guide
By Tony Faddoul
July’s Evening Planets:
Bright Venus and Jupiter can be found under Leo the Lion until 10 PM, setting earlier every night until 9 PM at the end of July. Neptune will be in Aquarius the Water Bearer as of midnight, rising earlier every night until 9 PM at the end of the month. Uranus can be
found in Pisces, rising one hour after Neptune. Find Saturn in Libra the Scales and dwarf planet Pluto in Sagittarius the Archer all night.
July’s Evening Stars:
Spot the Summer Triangle of Vega in Lyra the Harp, Deneb in Cygnus the Swan, and Altair in Aquila the Eagle all night. See Spica in Virgo the Virgin, Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion, and Arcturus in Boötes the Herdsman. Also find the stars of constellations Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Draco, Virgo, Sagittarius, Libra, Hercules, Ophiuchus, and the two Dippers throughout the month.
July’s Morning Planets: Saturn is up between Scorpius the Scorpion and Libra the Scales until 4 AM, setting earlier each morning until 1 AM at the end of July. Uranus rises in Pisces one hour after Neptune in Aquarius the Water Bearer at 12 AM. Mars rises in Gemini the Twins at 5 AM every day with Mercury there in the first half of July. Dwarf planet Pluto is in Sagittarius the Archer until sunrise.
July’s Morning Stars: Find the Summer Triangle of Vega in Lyra the Harp, Deneb in Cygnus the Swan, and Altair in Aquila the Eagle. Look for Capella in Auriga the Charioteer, Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull, along with the stars of constellations Lyra, Hercules, Sagittarius, Aquarius, Capricorns, Pisces, Aries, Draco, Pegasus, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Andromeda, Draco, and the two Dippers.
July 1 Full Moon at 10:20 PM
July 5 Moon at perigee (228,100 miles from Earth)
July 6 Earth at Aphelion, farthest from the Sun in 2015
July 8 Last Quarter Moon at 4:25 PM
July 15 New Moon at 9:25 PM
July 18 Venus is 0.5° north of the moon (sunset)
July 21 Moon at apogee (251,500 miles from Earth)
July 23 Venus is stationary
July 24 First Quarter Moon at 0:05 AM
July 26 Saturn is 2° north of the moon (pre-dawn)
July 26 Uranus is stationary
July 31 Full Moon at 6:20 AM
Times given in EDT.
Naked-Eye Stargazing in NYC
With so much to see in New York City, you may not realize how much there is to see above it. Despite the glow of its bright lights, there’s plenty to view in New York’s night sky without the aid of equipment. On a clear night, you can find 20-30 objects shining above the city. Here is a list of some of those objects you can see with the naked eye.
- The Moon: The brightest object in our night sky, only tall buildings can hide it.
- Planets: After the Moon, Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and Mercury are the next brightest objects. Saturn is also very bright with only a couple of stars more luminous. Planets are often mistaken for stars.
- Stars and Constellations: Sirius tops the list as the brightest star viewed from Earth. Other bright stars include Arcturus, Vega, Capella, Spica, Antares, Betelgeuse, Rigel, Deneb, and Altair. In city skies, the shape-forming stars of constellations Orion and Ursa Major (Big Dipper) can easily be seen.
- Spots of misty light
Galaxies: Our nearest neighbor, Andromeda, is 2.5 million light-years away – viewed as a spot of haze in the darkest areas in NYC.
Nebulae: The Orion Nebula (M42) can be seen as misty spot below Orion’s Belt in that constellation.
Star Clusters: The Pleiades cluster contains over a thousand stars. It is a haze of light in our city sky, but in darker places the brightest six of the “Seven Sisters” can be picked out.
- On the Move
Comets: Halley and Hale-Bopp are large, nearby comets that were visible to the naked eye when they appeared in the 80s and 90s.
Meteors and fireballs: In New York, shooting stars dart across the sky. But city dwellers see barely a quarter of the number spotted upstate during a meteor shower.
Satellites: Some of the artificial satellites that orbit Earth are visible, like the International Space Station. Slower than a meteor, it takes 5 minutes to cross the sky.
Now for some urban observing tips. Avoid lampposts. Move even a few yards away, and there’s a drastic difference. Be patient. As your eyes get used to the dark, more objects will appear. Head to the rivers. Get a wider view at the city’s edges with the buildings out of the way.
Observe with AAA! Check the club’s calendar for stargazing sessions at locations throughout the boroughs of NYC