July 2021 Guide to the Bright Planets
On the last weekend of July, stargazers are in for a dazzling night show! The full Buck Moon will continue to appear full, sweeping by Saturn and Jupiter. On Saturday, July 24, Saturn appears just above the Moon, and on Sunday, July 25, Jupiter is aligned with the Moon! The two planets are easily visible to the eye alone. See Bob’s Sky Watch details.
Earth arrives at its annual far point from the Sun—aphelion—on the 5th of July. When overhead, the Sun appears 7 percent dimmer than it looked in January.
Bright Planets of July
As darkness descends on July days, look up! Both of our neighboring planets—bright Venus and red Mars—will appear low on the western horizon. Venus is easy to see at a -3.9 magnitude. Mars is dimmer at +1.8 magnitude just above Venus.
July 11–12: Venus and Mars Conjunction
- On the 11th, Venus and Mars meet in a conjunction with both just to the left of the crescent Moon. Look in the western sky after sunset. Use the Moon to help guide your eye to Venus and Mars. These three nearest bodies to Earth stand about 10 degrees high during mid-twilight.
- On the 12th and 13th, the Moon moves on, but the two planets come very close together. Again, look in the evening skies after sunset to see glowing Venus; Mars’s dimness at magnitude 1.84 means that binoculars should be used for the very best view.
Each evening, Venus will rise higher in the night sky and Mars will sink lower to the setting Sun. By the end of July, Mars disappears from view into the horizon but Venus continues to shine bright in the West.
July 24–25: Saturn, Jupiter, and Moon
Jupiter and Saturn shine bright from mid-evening until dawn! Saturn emerges around 10 P.M. ET in the southeast skies, and Jupiter follows about an hour later towards the east. The Giant Planet is easily visible at -2.7 magnitude; in comparison, Saturn will be harder to see at zero-magnitude. See Saturn and Jupiter’s rise and set times for your location.
The two planets are headed towards their opposition from the Sun in August (when they are their brightest for the year). Saturn’s opposition will come on August 1-2.
This means that late July is one of the better times to view the two largest planets in our solar system.
- On Saturday, July 24, the night after the Full Buck Moon, the Moon will still appear full. Use the Moon as a guide to easily find planet Saturn. It’s four degrees south of Saturn by the time dawn arrives. Both the Moon and Saturn will be visible together in the constellation Capricornus.
- On Sunday, July 25, planet Jupiter is hovering just above the Moon, having traveled four more degrees south to align with the Giant Planet. As with the night prior, this sight should be easily visible with the naked eye alone but binoculars always help!
Image: Summer Triangle. Credit: NASA
Stargazing for July
- July’s highlight is the Summer Triangle, shining bright and high in the evening sky! See our free star chart and have fun spotting the Summer triangle this month!
- The Delta Aquariid meteors peak July 28 to 29. Their hourly rate at peak is 10 meteors per hour and it’s a little near the date of the Full Buck Moon for dark skies, but if you’re patient and look towards the darkest part of the sky, you should see a shooting star. See tips for viewing meteor showers.