Watch the Sky on the 4th of July! | Almanac.com

Watch the Sky on the 4th of July!


Fourth of July, Binghamton, NY.

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Fourth of July stargazing

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If you’re going to watch the 4th of July fireworks, here’s a gorgeous suggestion while you’re waiting for the show to start. Look up at the night sky in the fading twilight for a few natural wonders that you can show to family and friends. Bob Berman has viewing tips.

The evening of Independence Day in the United States is the annual occasion when the maximum number of people are gazing idly up at the sky. So, what are we looking at? PM in the fading twilight.

Viewing Tips

About 9 or 9:30, start by facing the direction of the sunset, meaning west or a bit north of west.


The waning twilight glow of sunset is brightest at the northwestern horizon. Lowish in that direction is the sky’s brightest star. Except it’s not a true star. You know perfectly well what it is, since it’s been grabbing your attention all year. It’s Venus, the Evening Star, and is now at its best as it prepares to vanish by month’s end. If you have binoculars and can hold them steady, you’ll see Venus has taken on the shape of a crescent Moon. 

Point Venus out to everyone you’re with. You can even tell them that its brightness is due to its solid overcast clouds made of weird shiny drops of sulphuric acid. Discover 10 Cool Things About Venus!

The Moon

The nearly full Moon will also be visible though not blocking the very bright objects we’re discussing here. It’s called the Full Buck Moon, amongst other Moon names that different Native American tribes used to track the lunar calendar and the seasons. 

The Big Dipper

Then, look higher up from there until you see the familiar Big Dipper. The tip of its handle is at the top of that constellation — nearly overhead. Follow the curve of its handle and it famously arcs to the second brightest star-like thing in all the sky, which is nonetheless nearly 100 times less dazzling than Venus. Not even in the same league. Yet this is summer’s brightest true star — the famous orange Arcturus.

Bright Star Vega

Now look straight overhead to a blue-white star that pretty much equals the light of Arcturus. It’s the famous Vega, which, by the way, should be pronounced VEE-ga, not VAY-ga.

Vega is the technically the 3rd brightest star—easily visible from mid-northern latitudes, after Sirius and Arcturus. See more cool facts about Vega, the summer star.

Stars are always pastels so their colors are a bit subtle. Still, their differences reveal their ages and temperatures. Orange means cooler and older. Blue means young and hot. And Venus reflects our own Sun’s pure whiteness. So look what we’re seeing: Arcturus is reddish, Vega is blue, and Venus is white. 

Get it? While waiting for the Independence Day celebration to begin, the sky’s offering us an overhead banquet of red, white, and blue!

If you have French friends or relatives who are just a fortnight from their own Bastille Day fireworks, send this to them. The sky’s colorful motif happens to work there

Get ready for Independence Day: The Fourth of July.

About The Author

Bob Berman

Bob Berman, astronomer editor for The Old Farmer’s Almanac, covers everything under the Sun (and Moon)! Bob is the world’s most widely read astronomer and has written ten popular books. Read More from Bob Berman