July’s Stars and Planets

The beautiful, ringed planet Saturn rules the night sky this month in the Name A Star Live constellation Virgo.  You can use the Moon to find this astronomical jewel, and use just about any telescope to see its rings!

The Moon, Saturn and Spica
The Moon, Saturn and Spica the evening of July 16 as viewed from the northern hemisphere

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July’s Planetary Pairings

The brighter planets of our solar system put on some impressive night shows in July!  You don’t need a telescope to enjoy these sights, although you’ll need a scope to see the rings of Saturn or the large moons of Jupiter.  Enjoy!

And if you take any good photos of these planetary pairings, send them along to cs1@nameastarlive.com.  Who knows, we might highlight your photo on our blog next month!  You don’t need a telescope or any special equipment.  Consider taking a nice photo of the planets with your regular camera, perhaps against a nice background setting.  (Click here for an example.)

The pre-dawn sky of July 15
The pre-dawn sky of July 15 (July 16 in the southern hemisphere of Earth)

During the hour, or so, before sunrise on July 15 (July 16 in the southern hemisphere), face east and you’ll see quite a sight in the Name A Star Live constellation Taurus.  Next to the thin, crescent Moon you’ll see both the planet Jupiter and the planet Venus.  Venus, in turn, is near the bright star “Aldebaran,” a giant red star located about 65 light-years from Earth (meaning the light you see took 65 years to arrive at Earth).  Taurus represents a mythological bull.  You’ll notice that Aldebaran is on the tip of a large, V-shape group of stars: Those are the “Hyades,” and form the head of the bull.  In fact, Aldebaran is called the “fiery red eye of the bull.”  The name “Aldebaran” means “the follower,” as this bright star follows the Pleiades, a group of stars that many people mistake for the Little Dipper.  You’ll see the Pleiades above the Hyades and Jupiter on July 15.

Dusk July 24
Looking west after sunset, July 24 (July 25 for those of you in the southern hemisphere of Earth)

Shortly after sunset on the evenings of July 23-25, the Moon is near the planets Mars and Saturn.  Of course, Saturn is always a treat to view through a telescope.  Mars, however, is moving away from Earth now and is not as impressive a sight as it often is.  Near Saturn is the bright star Spica, which is the brightest star in the Name A Star Live constellation Virgo.  Spica is about 260 light-years from Earth, meaning the light you see from Spica was generated in the year 1752! Finding your star in the night sky Stars are located within constellations, which are just areas of the night sky. Scorpius, Aries and Taurus are examples of constellations. Your Name A Star Live Star Certificate displays the name of your constellation. You can use our online World Constellation Guide to determine if you can see your constellation during the evening hours (between sunset and midnight). Of course, you’ll need a telescope to see your star.  But you can see your constellation without the use of a telescope. You can also find your constellation by using our Virtual Planetarium™ astronomy software. A planisphere is another useful device.