Maiden and the Moon.
As darkness falls on July 11, watch the quarter moon glide into the zodiacal constellation of Virgo, the maiden, and pair up with its brightest star, Spica.
July 12 marks the official beginning of the Southern Aquarid meteor shower. While the shower won’t be peaking until July 26 to 31, some shooting stars will start to be visible this week in the hours before dawn. And with the moon out of the way in the early mornings this week, the skies should be optimal for catching the shower as it begins to ramp up. The best suggested time to look up is between 2 and 4 a.m. local time.
Individual meteors from this shower can be traced back to their radiant, which is the namesake constellation Aquarius, the water bearer. You can find Aquarius riding high in the southeast skies after local midnight this week.
With the moon’s average distance, its light only takes 1.2 seconds to reach our eyes on Earth. By contrast, light from Saturn takes 77 minutes to reach us, and the light from Antares takes a whopping 619 years to reach Earth, meaning we are seeing this star as it appeared in the year 1397!
Moon and Saturn.
By July 15, Saturn will get its chance to hang out with the waxing gibbous moon. This should be a stunning sight even with unaided eyes, as the cosmic duo will appear only three degrees apart, about equal to the width of your two middle fingers held at arm’s length.
For more information about this and other sky events, check out my National Geographic column, Starstruck.