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 27: Milky Way

The Milky Way arcs across the eastern evening sky now. The center of the galaxy is in the south, above the “spout” of the teapot formed by the stars of the constellation Sagittarius.

July 28: Trifid

The Trifid Nebula is a glowing cloud of gas and dust in teapot-shaped Sagittarius, which scoots low across the south on summer nights. A young star at the center of the nebula is triggering the births of more than 100 other stars.

July 29: Epsilon Lyrae

The double star Epsilon Lyrae is easy to find because it is close to the bright star Vega, which shines high in the east at nightfall and overhead around midnight. Epsilon Lyrae is a short distance from Vega. Binoculars reveal its double nature.

July 30: Dog Days

The “dog days” of summer are upon us. They get their name from the Dog Star, Sirius. The brightest star in the night sky, it is immersed in the Sun’s glare at this time of year. Because of that, ancient skywatchers named this period in the star’s honor.

July 31: Last-Quarter Moon

For the second time this month, the Moon is at last quarter. It lines up at a right angle to the line between Earth and the Sun. In that position, the Sun lights up half of the Moon’s Earth-facing hemisphere, so the Moon looks like it’s been chopped in half.

August 1: Saturn at Opposition

Saturn is at its best for the year. The planet rises around sunset, is in view all night, and shines at its brightest, like a bright golden star. It’s low in the southeast as night falls and in the southwest at first light. The brighter planet Jupiter follows it.

August 2: 61 Cygni

After the Sun, the first star whose distance was accurately measured was 61 Cygni. It is part of Cygnus, the swan, which passes high overhead tonight. 61 Cygni is about 11 light-years away. It appears fairly close to Deneb, the swan’s tail.