Night sky highlights - July 2017

This month, have a look for the Moon beside Jupiter and then near Saturn.

(Details given are for London and may vary for other parts of the UK.)


1 July - we have the first quarter Moon – you will see the right hand side lit up. Look through binoculars or a telescope to see the craters standing out at the terminator, the boundary between the light and dark sides. The following night take a photo of the Moon and Jupiter, less than 3 degrees apart in the sky. This is called a conjunction.

3 July - Earth will reach aphelion – this means it will be at its farthest point from the Sun, a distance of 152 092 503 km! We will be having our summer here in the northern hemisphere and of course the seasons are a result of the tilt in the Earth’s axis.

5 July - you may want to capture with your camera the waxing gibbous Moon 10 degrees north of the red supergiant star Antares. Antares is the heart of the Scorpion, which is the constellation Scorpius visible low in the summer sky from the UK.

7 July – continue tracking the phases of the Moon through the month and you’ll see waxing gibbous Moon close to Saturn. Wait until after 11pm to catch them at their highest point in the sky, due south. Catch the orange glow of Antares to the lower right of Saturn.

9 July – look for the Sea of Tranquillity on the night of the full Moon. This was the landing site of Apollo 11 in July 1969. The temperature reaches 120 degrees Celsius in direct sunlight – if they stood in the shadow of their Eagle module the temperature could reach a chilling -150 degrees Celsius.

The fantastic Perseids meteor shower runs from 13th July to 26th Aug – late on a clear dark night when the Moon is below the horizon (from early August) you may catch some meteors ahead of the peak of the shower on 12th and 13th of August.

16 July – the last quarter Moon provides another great photo opportunity. It rises just after midnight and will set around 1pm – catch it during the morning.

28-29 July - look for the Delta Aquarid meteors. A Moon-free sky is important as these are not as strong as the Perseids. There will be a waxing crescent Moon which sets before midnight providing the perfect opportunity to catch these meteors in the early hours of the morning. You may see up to 10 meteors per hour – these cometary grains leave bright streaks as they plough through our atmosphere at speeds of 150 000 km/h.

Also on the 28th take a photo of the crescent Moon only 3 degrees north of Jupiter – use binoculars to the see the 4 largest moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

Get prepared for stargazing

When looking at faint objects such as stars, nebulae, the Milky Way and other galaxies it is important to allow your eyes to adapt to the dark – so that you achieve night vision. Allow 15 minutes for your eyes to become sensitive in the dark and remember not to look at your mobile phone or any other bright device when stargazing. If you are using a star app on your phone switch on the red night vision mode.

Need a stargazing telescope or decent binoculars? Check out our range of high-quality observing equipment recommended by Royal Observatory astronomers:

See our range of observing equipment

Share your astronomy pictures

Don’t forget to share your pictures of the night sky with us on Twitter @ROGAstronomers or via Facebook

Come and see last year’s amazing entries to the world’s biggest astrophotography competition (Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year) in our free exhibition at the Royal Observatory.

Now in it's final weeks, come and visit the free Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year exhibition

(Open until 23rd July 2017).

See more of the night sky

Come on an amazing tour of this month’s night sky in our Sky Tonight live planetarium show

See the Sky Tonight planetarium show