Backyard Observatory

There Are Incredible Stargazing Opportunities in July. Here’s When & How to See Them.

What to look for when you're taking advantage of this month's ideal stargazing weather.

night sky right now
Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

If the lost boys of Hook were real, they'd definitely be saying "bangarang, Rufio" after checking out the list of stargazing possibilities in July. 

Lovely evening temperatures combined with a ton of night-sky activity -- even if it's not a month with major celestial events -- make July a great month to be lying out under the stars. And, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, we should still be social distancing, and stargazing is a great activity to do at a distance. I ever thought I'd say stargazing is a viable alternative to going to the bar, but, you know, here we are.

In addition to conjunctions and oppositions, bright stars and a lunar eclipse, there are a couple of space events worth watching online. The second spacewalk at the International Space Station is taking place at the beginning of the month and Perseverance, NASA's Mars 2020 rover, is scheduled to launch toward the red planet later this month.

Here are the stargazing and space events worth checking out in July. 

Space Station Spacewalk
NASA/Chris Cassidy

July 1 - International Space Station Spacewalk

NASA astronauts Chris Cassidy and Bob Behnken will take the second of two spacewalks scheduled for June and July. They'll spend seven hours outside the ISS starting at 7:35am EDT, and you can stream the whole thing live.

July 4 - Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

The fireworks may be canceled in your area, but you can see a lunar eclipse tonight! Okay, even I admit it's not as exciting as fireworks. A penumbral lunar eclipse results in a slight darkening of the moon as opposed to the coppery beauty of a total lunar eclipse or the sort of "bite out of an apple" look of a partial lunar eclipse. You'll be able to see the penumbral lunar eclipse start at 11:07pm EST, per Time and Date. It'll keep going for about two hours and 45 minutes. 

July 8 - Venus Shines at its Brightest

Now firmly removed from its nightly appearances in the early evening, the "morning star" will reach its point of greatest brightness for 2020. It'll be easily spotted in the morning sky as it shines at the very bright magnitude of -4.5.

July 11 - Mars and the Moon Get Together

The red planet will have a close approach with a waning gibbous moon on July 11. (That's the night of July 10.) The duo will rise together just after midnight EST, and stick together until they set around 5:15, per In the Sky. They'll be close together, but not close enough to be viewed together through a telescope. 

July 14 - Jupiter Flexes

This is the night when Jupiter will reach opposition. It'll be as big and bright as it gets in Earth's sky because it's making its closest approach and is also in line with the Earth and sun. According to In the Sky, Jupiter will be visible almost the entire night.

July 20 - Saturn Reaches Its Brightest Night

Tonight, it's Saturn's turn to hit opposition, marking its brightest night of the year for viewers planted here on Earth. The ringed planet will be visible throughout the majority of the night. 

July 22 - Mars 2020 Rover Heads to the Red Planet

NASA's newest rover destined for Mars is scheduled to launch on July 22 if the conditions are favorable. It'll launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and you'll be able to stream the launch live. 

july stargazing
Ozkan Bilgin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

July 28 - Delta Aquarid Meteor Shower

The Delta Aquarids aren't an outstanding meteor shower most years, capable of producing around 20 meteors per hour at its peak. Unfortunately, the moon is going to wash out lots of the fainter meteors. You may still see some of the brighter ones if you go out, though. You'll want to be in a very dark location with the best viewing coming after midnight. 

All of July - Look for Arcturus and Virgo

These are the two brightest summer stars. Both will be seen high in the sky just after night falls, with Arcturus sitting toward the southwest and Vega toward the east. They're relatively close to our planet at 37 and 25 light-years, respectively. But they're also 150 and 50 times brighter than our sun, respectively. That's why they shine so brightly in the summer sky.

All of July - Venus Becomes the Morning Star

It had a long stay as one of the most notable night-sky objects in the evenings, but that run came to an end for Venus in early June. Earth's sister planet is now visible in the morning sky. It's the brightest night-sky object after the moon, so it's easy to spot any morning this month.

Ready to go stargazing?

In addition to all the great celestial events above, you could stay in a stream the northern lights from home. If you're just getting started, check out our guide to astronomy for beginners

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Dustin Nelson is a Senior Staff Writer at Thrillist. Follow him @dlukenelson.