Each Monday I pick out the northern hemisphere’s celestial highlights (mid-northern latitudes) for the week ahead, 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 moon-gazing than stargazing. With our natural satellite waxing towards First Quarter and reaching full Moon next week the sky will be relatively bright from mid-week onwards. So it’s a good chance to let the Moon guide you to two of the most important stars in the northern hemisphere’s night sky — Spica in Virgo and the red supergiant star Antares in Scorpius. Like Betelgeuse in Orion (now in the daytime sky), Antares could go supernova at any time.
Monday, July 4, 2022: Earth at aphelion
Earth’s orbit of the Sun is not a perfect circle. Today is “Aphelion Day,” the point at which the Earth is furthest from the Sun for the entire year. While at its closest, perihelion on January 4, 2022, it was 91.4 million miles from the Sun, today at aphelion it’s 94.5 million miles distant. It’s because 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 or so it will become a bright orb as it waxes towards being 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 of Virgo and about 250 light-years distant.
Sunday, July 10, 2022: Moon near Antares
Tonight the waxing gibbous Moon will be close to Antares, the brightest star in the constellation of Scorpius. Look due south. A red supergiant star 12 times the mass of the Sun, Antares is one of the biggest stars we know of. Distinctly orangey-red to the observer (especially through binoculars), if you put it in the solar system it would bust out almost as far as to where Jupiter orbits.
It’s around 550 light years distant and belongs to the Scorpius-Centaurus Association, a loose grouping of relatively close stars in Scorpius and Crux, the latter constellation of which is only visible from the southern hemisphere.
Constellation of the week: Scorpius
Scorpius is a classic constellation of summer that’s near the center of the Milky Way. From the northern hemisphere it’s best viewed 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’ll see the M4 globular cluster of 1,000 stars.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.