Every Monday, I select the celestial high points of the northern hemisphere (mid-north latitudes) for the coming week, but be sure to check my main feed for more in-depth articles on stargazing, astronomy, eclipses and more.
What to see in the night sky this week: July 4-10, 2022
This week is better for observing the moon than for observing the stars. With our natural satellite ascending towards the first quarter and reaching the full moon next week, the sky will be relatively clear from the middle of the week. So this is a good opportunity to let the Moon guide you to two of the most important stars in the Northern Hemisphere night sky: Spica in Virgo and the red supergiant star Antares in Scorpio. Like Betelgeuse in Orion (now in the daytime sky), Antares could go supernova at any moment.
Monday, July 4, 2022: Earth at aphelion
The Earth’s orbit of the Sun is not a perfect circle. Today is the “Day of Aphelion”, the point at which Earth is furthest from the Sun for the entire year. As he nears, perihelion on January 4, 2022, it was 91.4 million kilometers from the Sun, today at aphelion it is 94.5 million miles distant. This is because the Earth orbits the Sun in a slight ellipse.
Wednesday, July 6, 2022: first quarter moon
Tonight, the Moon reaches first quarter, when its Earth-facing half is 50% illuminated. For the next approx it will turn into a glowing orb as it becomes a full “Buck Moon”.
Thursday, July 7, 2022: Moon near Spica
Tonight the waxing gibbous Moon will be about 5º from Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo and about 250 light years away.
Sunday July 10, 2022: Moon near Antares
Tonight, the waxing gibbous Moon will be close to Antares, the brightest star in the constellation Scorpius. Look due south. A red supergiant star 12 times the mass of the Sun, Antares is one of the biggest stars we know. Distinctly orange-red to the viewer (especially through binoculars), if you put it into the solar system it will burst almost as far out as Jupiter’s orbit.
It is about 550 light-years distant and belongs to the Scorpius-Centaurus association, a loose group of relatively close stars in Scorpius and Crux, whose last constellation is visible only from the southern hemisphere.
Constellation of the week: Scorpio
Scorpius is a classic summer constellation that sits near the center of the Milky Way. From the northern hemisphere it is best to see it in July. From mid-northern latitudes only the tail of this famous constellation is visible, but with a clear view to the south you can easily see Antares. Put your binoculars just to the right of Antares and you will see the 1,000-star globular cluster M4.
I wish you clear skies and big eyes.