Find your way around the night sky! Below is a free sky map for JULY 2015 as well as a printable version, courtesy of astronomer Jeff DeTray.
Sky Map for July 2015
Each month, Jeff’s Sky Maps provides a sky map which highlights beautiful events in the evening sky—stars, constellations, planets, conjunctions with the Moon, meteor showers, and other amazing celestial objects. Follow more of Jeff’s sky adventures at AstronomyBoy.com.
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 2015
The Summer Triangle
Warm July nights are very pleasant for stargazing. The heat of the day has waned, and you can comfortably stay outdoors for as long as you wish. So, apply some mosquito repellent and look to the east.
By late evening, the Summer Triangle has risen well above the horizon and dominates the eastern sky. The Triangle is composed of the three brightest stars in this part of the sky: Vega, Altair, and Deneb. These are the 5th, 12th, and 20th brightest stars in the entire sky, so you’ll have no trouble in spotting them when you look to the east anytime this month. Use these stars as guideposts for finding other celestial objects.
- The constellation Cygnus, the Swan lies mostly within the boundaries of the Summer Triangle, with one of our guide stars, Deneb, marking the bird’s tail. Along with Deneb, the other bright stars of Cygnus are in the shape of a cross that is lying on its side at this time of year. This asterism (unofficial star group) is known informally as the Northern Cross. If are lucky enough to live under truly dark skies, you’ll be able to see fainter stars forming the graceful wings of the Swan extending from the arms of the cross.
- Follow the bottom of the Summer Triangle from Altair past Deneb, and you’ll come to the constellation Cepheus, the King. His shape resembles a child’s drawing of a house. It’s a lopsided house, and it’s tipped to one side.
- Below the King we find—who else?—Cassiopeia, the Queen. Her main stars form a squat “W” shape. With apologies to fans of the Wimbledon tennis tournament, I’ll always think of Cassiopeia as The Big “W.”
- >Now follow the line from Vega past Deneb to the small constellation Lacerta, the Lizard. While some constellations—Cygnus, for example—have been recognized since ancient times, Lacerta is a “new” constellation, having been designated as such only in 1687 by Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius. The stars were in the sky long before Man came on the scene, but it took Man’s imagination to “see” them as constellations. You can argue that new ones like Lacerta are just as valid as those that people have seen for 2,000 years.
A Visit to Pluto
Closer to home, in cosmic terms, the dwarf planet Pluto is being visited for the first time this month by a spacecraft from Earth. The New Horizons probe, launched on January 19, 2006, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, will make its closest approach on July 14 and forever transform Pluto from a tiny dot in Earth’s largest telescopes into an entire world.
New Horizons is a “flyby” space mission. That is, it won’t land on or even orbit its target but instead will cruise by within 7,500 miles of Pluto before moving on to farther reaches of our solar system. New Horizons has traveled 9 years and 3 billion miles.
In the months leading up to closest approach, New Horizons has already returned photos of Pluto that far surpass even those from the Hubble Space Telescope. July 14 will be an exciting day for all of us interested in astronomy. Follow the new discoveries at NASA’s Web site: www.nasa.gov/newhorizons
Sky map produced using Chris Marriott’s Skymap Pro
See our Sky Watch page for more highlights of the monthly sky, courtesy of The Old Farmer’s Almanac.