Bright planets, a “male moon” and the Milky Way


Don’t you think peak summer is the perfect time for stargazing? Nights can be short in the Northern Hemisphere, but there are some incredible sights waiting for anyone who takes the time to look up.

From the return of some glowing planets in the night sky to magnificent views of the Milky Way from dark sky destinations, here’s why you need to stay outside after watching summer sunsets in July:

1. Venus visits the beehive group

When: after sunset, Friday July 2, 2021

Where to search: west-northwest

Last week, it was Mars who visited the Beehive Cluster, also known as M44 and Praesepe (which means “manger” in Latin). This time, it is the turn of the much brighter Venus to appear just in front of the sixty stars visible from this group of stars distant about 580 light years in the constellation of Cancer, the Crab. Astrophotographers will be out in force for this one, but it will perform very low in the west-northwest night sky just after sunset.

2. The Milky Way

When: midnight, July and August 2021

Where: south

The bright center of our galaxy is a seasonal event, and this season is summer. While it emerges from the horizon in April, it is not until mid-June that it becomes visible shortly after sunset. In July it is already up after dark and in August you will see it crossing the night sky, but only if you are under an inky black sky near the New Moon. The weeks leading up to the New Moon on July 10, 2021 will be ideal for a galactic gaze.

3. Mercury in the morning

When: before sunrise, Sunday July 4, 2021

Where: to the east

Today, the most difficult planet to see this morning is moving away from the Sun – from our point of view – during its current appearance. From today until next week, this is a great time to try and spot a Mercury clearing about 15º above the eastern horizon in about an hour before dawn. ..

4. Venus as “evening star”

When: twilight, April-December 2021

Where: to the west

Venus is back in the western sky after sunset in what is sure to be a twinkling appearance as the “Evening Star.” It blazes to a magnitude of -3.9 this month as it focuses on Mars, which it is currently 200 times brighter than. After a dazzling summer, it will become a crescent by December and, like all inner planets do, it will eventually disappear in the glow of the Sun.

5. A crescent moon with Venus, then Mars

When: just after sunset, July 11 and 12, 2021

Where: to the west

The Moon orbits the Earth on roughly the same orbital plane as the plane of the solar system, so it often appears in the night sky near a planet. Two successive nights in July 2021, it will appear almost two; on July 11 a very bright Venus will be flanked by a dark Mars and a crescent Moon illuminated at 3.4% while on July 12 a crescent Moon illuminated at 8.4% will be just above the two planets.

6. The summer triangle

When: July and August

Where: above around midnight

As an astronomer looking to learn about the night sky and watch it change with the seasons, the summer triangle is one of the most important shapes you can hope to find. Made up of three bright stars – Deneb in Swan (top), Super Bright Vega in Lyre, and Altair in Aquila (bottom), the Summer Triangle is easy to find high in the east and south after dark. night. As a bonus, from a starry sky site, the Milky Way crosses it from Deneb to Altair.

7. A “Buck Moon” with Saturn and Jupiter

When: twilight on Friday July 23, 2021

Where to look: east

The monthly full moon rise is always a delightful sight, but in July there is a bonus as the full “Buck Moon” will shine near Saturn. Once the full moon has risen from a delicate orange to a brighter yellow, look down and to the left, due east, and you will see the much brighter planet Jupiter appear. Check the moonrise times for your location and make yourself comfortable – somewhere with a low view to the east – at that time. You will see the full moon rise shortly thereafter.

The times and dates shown are for the northern mid-latitudes. For the most accurate location-specific information, check out online planetariums like Stellarium and The sky live. Check planet-rise / planet-set, Sunrise and moonrise / moonset times for where you are.

I wish you clear skies and big eyes.


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