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Night Sky Guide July 2013

Your guide to constellations, deep-sky objects, planets and events, Tonight’s Sky, Highlights of the July Sky

Evening Planets

Soon after the Sun sets, look for bright Venus shining in the twilight sky, low in the west. A telescope reveals the planet’s disk.

As the sky grows darker, Saturn begins to slip toward the western horizon. It sets after midnight. Aim a telescope at the planet to see its famous rings.

Constellations and Deep-Sky Objects

The summer night sky is filled with a treasure chest of bright jewels.

Scorpius is a striking constellation, one of the few that distinctly resembles the object after which it was named.

The Scorpion is easy to trace in the sky. Its head, curved tail, and venomous stinger are prominent.

At the Scorpion’s heart lies a reddish star. Its color closely resembles that of Mars, known to the Greeks as Ares.

Ancient Greek stargazers, contemplating these two crimson objects, named the star Antares, which means “rival of Ares.”

A prominent and lovely globular cluster in small telescopes, M4 lies just to the right of Antares in Scorpius.

Globular clusters are collections of hundreds of thousands of closely packed and gravitationally bound stars.

The center of our galaxy lies in the direction of the great constellation Sagittarius, the Archer.

This area of the sky overflows with stars, globular star clusters, and bright and dark nebulae.

Look for Sagittarius by finding the group of stars commonly known as the Teapot. The handle, top, and spout are easy to find. Under dark skies, the Milky Way seems to rise out of the Teapot’s spout.

Many deep-sky targets reside in this area of the summer night sky. A quick glance with binoculars reveals some spectacular objects.

The Lagoon Nebula’s gas and dust is brilliantly illuminated by the energy of the hot, young stars inside it.

In the three-lobed Trifid Nebula, dark dust lanes appear etched against the radiance of glowing gas.

The Omega Nebula glows brightly but we cannot see its hottest stars, embedded deep inside. Infrared telescopes, peering through the gas and dust, can detect them.

M22, one of the brightest globular clusters in the sky, is visible to the naked eye. It is a relatively nearby globular cluster, only about 10,000 light-years distant.

Morning Planets

Just before the Sun rises, dim Mars and bright Jupiter make an appearance together above the eastern horizon.

They will be higher and easier to spot late in the month. Use a telescope to look for details on the planets.


The annual Delta Aquarid meteor shower peaks on the night of July 28th to 29th.

Watch for meteors radiating from the southeast after midnight. Skywatchers could see up to 20 yellowish meteors per hour, although moonlight will make it difficult to see faint meteors.

The night sky is always a celestial showcase. Explore its wonders from your own backyard.


Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute, Office of Public OutreachStarfield images created with Stellarium

Mythological constellation forms from Firmamentum Sobiescianum sive Uranographia by Johannes Hevelius, courtesy of the United States Naval Observatoryenus image courtesy of Mario Weigand

Saturn image courtesy of John EndresonM4 image based on image courtesy of AURA/NOAO/NSF

Lagoon, Trifid, and Omega Nebula images courtesy of the MicroObservatory

Robotic Telescope NetworkM22 image courtesy of Robert W. Provin and Brad D. Wallis

Mars image courtesy of Matt Wedel

Jupiter image courtesy of Todd Gross

Narrated by Nancy CaloMusic written by Jonn Serrie

Production: Lucy Albert, Greg Bacon, John Bintz, John Godfrey, and VanessaThomas


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