The Naked Eye in July
Summer is here and we can finally enjoy warm evenings of barbecuing and stargazing as long as those rain clouds give us a break.
Jupiter and the Moon
The month kicks off with a chance meeting of Jupiter and the Moon. On July 1, the crescent Moon will help you locate giant Jupiter. Just look for the bright ‘star’ to the lower right of the Moon any time after dark in the southwestern sky (but before 11:30 p.m. when Jupiter and the Moon will be getting close to setting below the horizon for the night).
The same evening, if you’d rather join a group of other amateur astronomers instead of gazing at the stars from out of your backyard, you can attend the public stargazing party hosted by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada at the Morgan Arboretum in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue. This is a great opportunity to meet other stargazers, get answers to your astronomy questions, and gaze at celestial objects (including planets, nebulae, star clusters, etc.) through powerful telescopes brought by some of the seasoned amateurs present. This event is free, and it kicks off with an introduction talk on astronomy around 7:30 p.m.
Jupiter and the Moon in the late evening sky of July 1 (image generated on SkySafari 5 for the iPad — see www.skysafariastronomy.com).
Saturn and the Moon
The Moon visits another of our solar system’s giant planets this month. Around July 6, if you look southeast early after dark, you will see the waxing Moon next to Saturn. The bright star to the right of the duo is Antares, the brightest star in the constellation of Scorpius.
Saturn and the Moon in the early evening sky of July 6 (image generated on SkySafari 5 for the iPad — see www.skysafariastronomy.com).
The Summer Triangle
The Summer Triangle is an astronomical asterism drawn between three of the main stars in our summer night sky. The three stars are: Altair in the constellation Aquila (the eagle), Deneb in the constellation Cygnus (the swan), and Vega in the constellation Lyra. See if you can spot all three and draw the imaginary triangle connecting them. Start by looking straight up. The point right above your head is called the Zenith, and Vega is not too far from it this time of year (especially around 11:30 p.m. on July 21). Find Vega first and try to find its two companions from there.
The three stars of the Summer Triangle: Altair, Deneb and Vega (image generated on SkySafari 5 for the iPad — see www.skysafariastronomy.com).
Constellation of the month: Lyra
Since you already discovered bright Vega, this is a good time to learn how to spot and recognize its constellation of Lyra. See if you can find the squashed rectangle made up by Lyra’s four main stars, crowned by bright Vega.
The Constellation of Lyra (image generated on SkySafari 5 for the iPad — see www.skysafariastronomy.com).
A ‘new Moon’ simply means that the Moon is located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun, and it is therefore not visible at the time. This will occur July 23 this month. That will be the best time to observe the sky since there will be no bright moonlight to interfere. If you live in an area where the sky is relatively clear and free of artificial illumination, you might be able to see the Milky Way. It runs across the sky in an almost North—South direction. It is in fact an arm of our galaxy and it is made up of millions of distant stars.
A representation of an arm of our galaxy, the Milky Way, running through our night sky (image generated on SkySafari 5 for the iPad — see www.skysafariastronomy.com).
Those are some of the naked eye sights for the coming month. You can download a handy sky on espacepourlavie.ca/en/pocket-planetarium. If you prefer a mobile app that displays a sky chart on your smart phone, a free-to-download version of Sky Safari is available for a number of mobile platforms. You can download it by visiting skysafariastronomy.com.