Our sky map for July 2016 is a free and printable star chart to see stars and constellations in the night sky, from The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
Sky Map for July 2016
This star chart was created by Jeff DeTray. Each month, we highlight bright stars in the sky, constellations, planets, the Moon, and dark sky events. Follow more of Jeff’s sky adventures at AstronomyBoy.com.
Watch the night sky from your backyard or plan a drive in the countryside away from bright light. Pack some snacks, chairs, and binoculars if you have them!
Click-and-Print Sky Map
Just click here or on the image below to open the printable map—then bring outside!
Sky Map Highlights: July 2016
The Big Dipper Points the Way
The Big Dipper, in the constellation Ursa Major, the Greater Bear, is one of the brightest and most easily recognized asterisms (unofficial star patterns) in the night sky. Depending on the time of year and the time of night, the Big Dipper will often appear upside down or sideways. Late at night in mid-July, however, the Big Dipper is very easy to spot. It’s almost right side up, with its handle curving to the upper left and its bowl on the right, as shown on this month’s sky map.
This makes July an ideal time to learn how the Big Dipper can help you to navigate the sky.
- Various parts of the Big Dipper’s bowl and handle can serve as pointers to other stars and constellations. The first set of pointers that every beginning stargazer should learn is the two stars forming the outermost side of the Big Dipper’s bowl. These are labeled in purple on the sky map. If you visually extend the line of these two stars up and away from the bowl, you’ll find Polaris, the North Star. Polaris marks the end of the handle of the Little Dipper. Most of the stars of the Little Dipper are rather dim; you may see them best if you are far from city lights. Polaris, however, should be visible from the suburbs, and the pointers of the Big Dipper’s bowl will help you to find it.
- There is another set of pointers in the Big Dipper. The first three stars of the Big Dipper’s handle point directly to the four-sided Keystone asterism in the constellation Hercules, the Hero. The Keystone pointers are labeled in orange on this month’s map. Once you have located the Keystone, look directly below it for Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown, or Tiara.
- The final example of Big Dipper helpfulness is a bit more complicated, but once learned, it’s easy to remember. A simple phrase summarizes this bit of celestial navigation: “Arc to Arcturus, then drive a Spike to Spica.” Look for the green dashed lines on the sky map.
If you extend the arc of the Big Dipper’s handle to the left and downward, it points directly to the bright star Arcturus in the constellation Boötes, the Herdsman. The body of Boötes is often described as kite-shape, and the extended arc of the Big Dipper’s handle follows the curved edge of the kite on its way to Arcturus.
Once you arrive at Arcturus, straighten out the arc and visually “drive a spike” directly to the star Spica (SPY-kuh) in Virgo, the Virgin. And there you have it: “Arc to Arcturus, then drive a Spike to Spica.” Along with the Big Dipper’s other pointers, it’s an easy way to remember the arrangement of the stars and constellations in this part of the sky.
July 2016 Sky Map
Click here or on image below to enlarge (PDF)
Sky map produced using Chris Marriott’s Skymap Pro
Speaking of Spica, if you are stargazing on the night of July 11, you’ll find the first quarter Moon sitting to the right of Spica. Over the next few nights, the Moon will race to the left, passing above the planet Mars on July 14 and reaching the vicinity of the planet Saturn on July 15. Adding to the bright celestial lights in this region of the sky is the orange-y star Antares. The presence of the Moon will drown out the fainter objects, but Mars, Saturn, and Antares will shine through the moonlight, creating a most attractive scene.
See our Sky Watch page for more highlights of the monthly sky, courtesy of The Old Farmer’s Almanac.