July offers lots of pretty stars and constellations to check out, and you’ll get a personally guided tour of them by downloading this month’s Sky Tour astronomy podcast.
Throughout July, right after the Sun sets and it gets dark, you’ll have no bright planets in view — they’re all in the predawn sky. But there are lots of pretty stars and constellations to check out, and you’ll get a personally guided tour of them by downloading this month’s Sky Tour astronomy podcast. It’s a great way for anyone interested in the night sky to get a quick and entertaining overview of “what’s up” during July or any month of the year.
For example, after the Sun sinks from view, scan the western sky for bright stars. Easiest to spot is Arcturus, very bright and most of the way up from the southwestern horizon to overhead. Over to its right is the Big Dipper, seemingly hanging by its handle in the evening sky.
Almost directly below Arcturus is icy-white Spica, the alpha star in Virgo, the Maiden. It’s actually two stars whirling around each other so fast and so close that they’ve distorted each other into egg shapes. And it’s a good thing Spica is 850 light-years away — it outshines the Sun by more than 12,000 times with intense, lethally high-energy light. Not the kind of star you’d want to have right next door to our solar system. And do you know what Spica has to do with the flag of Brazil? Listen to Sky Tour for the answer!
Well to the left of Spica is the bright star Antares, the heart of Scorpius. Can you tell that Antares has a reddish tinge compared to icy-white Spica? Antares is a red supergiant, about 550 light-years away, and it’s one of the largest stars known. To the left of Antares is a distinctive group of stars in the constellation Sagittarius that’s shaped like a Teapot. Download this month’s Sky Tour for tips on how to spot it. are shaped like a teapot. In fact, that’s what astronomers call it — the Teapot.
Although there’s been a lot of planet action in the predawn sky, the evening sky has been planet-less in recent weeks. That starts to change by the end of July, as Saturn and then Jupiter pop into view low in the east by late evening. To figure out where and when to look for them — and to heighten your enjoyment of all the bright stars and constellations now overhead — all you need is a little curiosity, a clear sky, and this month’s Sky Tour episode.