Night Sky the Week of July 25: See Shooting Stars and a Cosmic Crab – The Night Sky Guy
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Night Sky the Week of July 25: See Shooting Stars and a Cosmic Crab

Picture of the Crab nebula
A composite image from three space telescopes shows the intricate detail in the Crab Nebula, the remains of a star that exploded. PHOTOGRAPH BY NASA/ESA/JPL-CALTECH

Jupiter Sinking.

After sunset on July 25, start looking for superbright Jupiter hanging low in the western sky.

The gas giant sits below the back foot of the constellation Leo, the lion, which is a springtime star pattern that is now setting quickly in the west. That means now is the time to catch sight of the largest planet in the solar system before it gets too close to the sun and gets lost in its glare in about a month’s time. For observers in the Northern Hemisphere, Jupiter currently appears about 20 degrees above the horizon just after local sunset, about equal to the width of two of your clenched fists stacked on top of each other.

Picture of Jupiter visible in the night sky
On July 25, look for brilliant Jupiter dominating the western sky about an hour after local sunset. SKY CHART BY ANDREW FAZEKAS, SKYSAFARI

Delta Aquarids.

As we wait for the Perseids, the granddaddy of all shooting star shows, in August, a modest but dependable meteor shower called the Delta Aquarids will whet our appetites this week.

Officially peaking in the early morning hours of July 28, the Delta Aquarids should be at their best for a couple days on either side of the peak. The individual shooting stars will appear to radiate from the shower’s namesake constellation, Aquarius, the water bearer, which rides the low southern horizon.

From the dark countryside away from city lights, this shower can produce upward of 20 meteors an hour between midnight and dawn. However, with the waning crescent moon rising at around 2 a.m. local time, the extra light in the sky will make meteors harder to see, and the numbers may be a bit lower than usual.

Picture of the star Aldebaran near the moon
Observers in eastern North America will get to see the bright orange star Aldebaran get covered by the moon in the morning hours of July 29. SKY CHART BY ANDREW FAZEKAS, SKYSAFARI

Bull’s-Eye Winks.

In the early morning of July 29, lucky sky-watchers across eastern North America will get to witness the waning crescent moon briefly cover up a bright orange star.

The 65-light-year-distant red giant Aldebaran will be eclipsed by the moon for observers from southern New Mexico to northern Maine, according to Astronomy.com. Observers in locations north of this line will see Aldebaran instead make a very close pass above the moon. The event will be best seen through binoculars and telescopes due to the bright glare of the moon but should still make for a great observation challenge for unaided eyes.

 

Picture of the crab nebula in relation to constellations
Using a telescope, observers can hunt down the Crab Nebula on July 31, using the moon as a guide. SKY CHART BY ANDREW FAZEKAS, SKYSAFARI

Crab Nebula.

In the early morning hours of July 31, backyard telescope users can hunt down the most famous and arguably best example of a supernova remnant, thanks to the moon pointing the way.

Look for the faint object known as Messier 1 or the Crab Nebula approximately five degrees above the thin crescent moon, or about the width of your fist held at arm’s length. The Crab Nebula shines at magnitude 9 and sits about 6,500 light-years from Earth. That’s close enough that people on Earth saw the supernova in the year 1054 A.D.

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