The sky map for July 2019 depicts the night sky on the Fourth of July! After the fireworks die down, keep your eyes pointed skyward and look for the features outlined below…
Just click here or on the image below to open the printable map—then bring outside!
Bright Skies on the Fourth of July
All across the United States, the Fourth of July is known for its bright and sparkling fireworks displays. It’s also the best time of year to observe two distinctive constellations of the far southern sky.
The constellations Scorpius, the Scorpion, and Sagittarius, the Archer, never venture very far above the southern horizon. Even now, when they are at their highest, you’ll want an unobstructed view to the south, free of trees, hills, and tall buildings. As always, your best view also requires a dark location, free of man-made light pollution.
Looking due south at midnight on July 4, there are two bright planets to help you get your bearings. Dead ahead is Jupiter, King of Planets, by far the largest planet in the solar system and also by far the brightest object on this month’s sky map.
Just to the lower right of Jupiter lies Antares, the 15th brightest star in the sky. Antares is a slightly reddish star that represents the heart of the Scorpion. Compare its color to that of Jupiter to better perceive the pale red of Antares.
Three stars in a near-vertical line to the right of Antares comprise the Scorpion’s head. Move your gaze downward from Antares to follow the Scorpion’s twisting torso, which leads to a group of five stars forming the Stinger, the poisonous barb at the tip of the creature’s tail. Be glad that this creepy-crawly lives in the sky and is not scuttling around you in the darkness.
To the left of Scorpius and Jupiter, in the constellation Sagittarius, the Archer, lies the planet Saturn. The Ringed Planet is currently as bright as it will get this year, although it pales in comparison to mighty Jupiter. Saturn sits just to the left of the famous Teapot asterism (unofficial star pattern), which is made up of the eight brightest stars in Sagittarius.
From a very dark location, the sky around Sagittarius appears misty or hazy, an effect caused by the combined light of the countless stars constituting the Milky Way galaxy, our home in the cosmos.
There is another constellation of note in the southern sky. Consider the curious constellation Serpens, the Serpent. Unique among the 88 constellations, Serpens is the only one divided into two separate parts. In Latin, the parts are Serpens Caput (Serpent’s Head) and Serpens Cauda (Serpent’s Tail). The two parts slither on opposite sides of Ophiuchus, the Serpent-Bearer, who is depicted as holding one half of Serpens in each hand.
The 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing
Finally, we would be remiss in not acknowledging an anniversary that will be celebrated for as long as we gaze at the night sky. This July marks the 50th commemoration of mankind’s first Moon landing, which took place on July 20, 1969, when Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin landed the lunar module Eagle at Tranquility Base while crewmate Mike Collins orbited overhead in the command module Columbia.
This year on July 20, take a moment to step outside, look toward the southeast, watch the moonrise, and give thought to the momentous events of a half-century ago. Use the Almanac’s easy calculator to find the time of moonrise for your location: https://www.almanac.com/astronomy/moon-rise-and-set.
July 2019 Sky Map
Click here or on map below to enlarge (PDF).
Sky map produced using Chris Marriott’s Skymap Pro
Note: How to Read the Sky Map
Our sky map does not show the entire sky which would be almost impossible. Instead, the monthly map focuses on a particular region of the sky where something interesting is happening that month. The legend on the map always tells you which direction you should facing, based on midnight viewing. For example, if the map legend says “Looking Southeast,” you should face southeast when using the map.
The map is accurate for any location at a so-called “mid northern” latitude. That includes anywhere in the 48 U.S. states, southern Canada, central and southern Europe, central Asia, and Japan. If you are located substantially north of these areas, objects on our map will appear lower in your sky, and some objects near the horizon will not be visible at all. If you are substantially south of these areas, everything on our map will appear higher in your sky.
The items labeled in green on the sky map are known as asterisms. These are distinctive star patterns that lie within constellations. When getting your bearings under the stars, it’s often easiest to spot an asterism and use it as a guide to finding the parent constellation.
The numbers along the white “Your Horizon” curve at the bottom of the map are compass points, shown on degrees. As you turn your head from side to side, you will be looking in the compass direction indicated by those numbers. The horizon line is curved in order to preserve the geometry of objects in the sky. If we made the horizon line straight, the geometry of objects in the sky would be distorted.