Weekly Stargazing Tips

Provided by StarDate.org. Unless otherwise specified, viewing times are local time regardless of time zone, and are good for the entire Lower 48 states (and, generally, for Alaska and Hawaii).

July 20: Touchdown!

The first astronauts landed on the Moon on July 20, 1969. And this year the Moon is at its greatest separation from Earth for the month on the 50th anniversary of that date, roughly 13,000 miles farther than the average distance of 239,000 miles.

July 21: Dog Days

Mid-summer is called the Dog Days because the “dog star,” Sirius, appears near the Sun. Since Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky, ancient skywatchers associated it with especially hot days.

July 22: Starry Sky

When darkness falls tonight the sky will come alive with stars: the Summer Triangle up in the east, the scorpion low in the south, and the stars of spring sliding from view in the west.

July 23: Outcast Stars

The Big Dipper is in the northwest this evening, with the handle above the bowl. The five stars in the middle of the dipper are all related, but the stars at the tip of the handle and lip of the bowl move through the galaxy independently of the others.

July 24: Last-Quarter Moon

The Moon reaches last quarter at 8:18 p.m. CDT. It lines up at a right angle to the line between Earth and Sun, so sunlight illuminates exactly half of the lunar hemisphere that faces our way.

July 25: Distant Planet

The constellation Virgo is in the southwest at nightfall. Astronomers recently discovered a big, heavy planet orbiting one of its stars, HR 5183. The system is about 100 light-years away.

July 26: Moon and Aldebaran

The Moon will flirt with Aldebaran, the brightest star of Taurus, the next couple of mornings. The star will stand to the lower left of the Moon at first light tomorrow, and about the same distance to the upper right of the Moon the next day.