Upstate New York Stargazing – July Week 1, 2017

Author's Note: The "Upstate New York Stargazing" series ran on the newyorkupstate.com and syracuse.com websites (and limited use in-print) from 2016 to 2018. For the full list of articles, see the Upstate New York Stargazing page.

Stargazing in Upstate NY: What to see in the night skies June 30 to July 7

Updated: Jun. 30, 2017, 2:41 p.m. | Published: Jun. 30, 2017, 1:41 p.m.

Special to nyup.com

By Damian Allis | Contributing writer

This summertime weekly summary for planetary, satellite, constellation, and other observing opportunities covers the end of June and first week of July.

Lectures and observing opportunities in Upstate/Central New York

New York has a number of astronomers, astronomy clubs, and observatories that host public sessions throughout the year. Announced sessions from several respondent NY astronomy organizations are provided below for all of July so you can plan accordingly. As wind and cloud cover are always factors when observing, please check the provided contact information and/or email the groups a day-or-so before an announced session, as some groups will also schedule weather-alternate dates. Also use the contact info for directions and to check on any applicable event or parking fees.

Astronomy Events Calendar

OrganizerLocationEventDateTimeContact Info
Adirondack Public ObservatoryTupper LakePublic ObservingJune 301/2 Hour After Sunsetemail, website
Adirondack Public ObservatoryTupper LakePublic ObservingJuly 71/2 Hour After Sunsetemail, website
Adirondack Public ObservatoryTupper LakePublic ObservingJuly 141/2 Hour After Sunsetemail, website
Adirondack Public ObservatoryTupper LakePublic ObservingJuly 211/2 Hour After Sunsetemail, website
Adirondack Public ObservatoryTupper LakePublic ObservingJuly 281/2 Hour After Sunsetemail, website
Albany Area Amateur Astronomers & Dudley ObservatorySchenectadySenior Science DayJuly 33:00 – 4:00 PMemail, website
Albany Area Amateur Astronomers & Dudley ObservatorySchenectadyNight Sky AdventureJuly 187:00 – 10:00 PMemail, website
Albany Area Amateur Astronomers & Dudley ObservatorySchenectadyAAAA MeetingJuly 207:30 – 9:00 PMemail, website
Albany Area Amateur Astronomers & Dudley ObservatorySchenectadyOctagon Barn Star PartyJuly 288:00 – 10:00 PMemail, website
Astronomy Section, Rochester Academy of ScienceRochesterObserving At The StrasenburghJuly 18:30 – 10:30 PMJim S., 585-703-9876
Astronomy Section, Rochester Academy of ScienceRochesterASRAS Member MeetingJuly 77:30 – 9:00 PMemail, website
Astronomy Section, Rochester Academy of ScienceRochesterPublic Star Party @ Northampton ParkJuly 109:30 – 11:00 PMemail, website
Astronomy Section, Rochester Academy of ScienceRochesterRocheSTAR Fest 2017July 28 – 29daytime & nighttimeemail, website
Baltimore WoodsMarcellusBob Piekiel & Summer SkiesJuly 21/228:00 – 11:00 PMemail, website
Clark Reservation State ParkJamesvilleBob Piekiel & Summer SkiesJuly 28/298:00 – 11:00 PM315-492-1590 website
Green Lakes State ParkFayettevilleBob Piekiel – Choosing A TelescopeJuly 77:00 – 9:00 PM315-637-6111 website
Green Lakes State ParkFayettevilleBob Piekiel & Summer SkiesJuly 14/157:30 – 10:30 PM315-637-6111 website
Kopernik Observatory & Science CenterVestalKAS Monthly MeetingJuly 57:00 – 9:00 PMemail, website
Kopernik Observatory & Science CenterVestalFriday Night Lecture & ObservingJune 308:00 PMemail, website
Kopernik Observatory & Science CenterVestalFriday Night Lecture & ObservingJuly 78:00 PMemail, website
Kopernik Observatory & Science CenterVestalFriday Night Lecture & ObservingJuly 148:00 PMemail, website
Kopernik Observatory & Science CenterVestalFriday Night Lecture & ObservingJuly 218:00 PMemail, website
Kopernik Observatory & Science CenterVestalFriday Night Lecture & ObservingJuly 288:00 PMemail, website
Mohawk Valley Astronomical SocietyWatervillePublic Stargazing @ Waterville LibraryJuly 159:15 – 11:59 PMemail, website
Mohawk Valley Astronomical SocietyWatervilleSolar and Star GazingJuly 205:00 – 10:00 PMemail, website
Mohawk Valley Astronomical SocietyWatervillePublic Stargazing @ Prospect Library & QuarryJuly 227:45 – 11:59 PMemail, website

ISS And Other Bright Satellites:

Satellite flyovers are commonplace, with several bright passes easily visible per hour in the nighttime sky, yet a thrill to new observers of all ages. Few flyovers compare in brightness or interest to the International Space Station. The flyovers of the football field-sized craft with its massive solar panel arrays can be predicted to within several seconds and take several minutes to complete.

There are three prominent flyovers this week, but you'll have to be an early riser to see them. The times across the state are all very close – simply go out and orient yourself a few minutes before the scheduled flyover and look for what first appears as a distant plane.

ISS Flyovers

DateBrightnessApprox. StartStart DirectionApprox. EndEnd Direction
Jul-17moderately4:52 AMS/SW4:58 AME/NE
Jul-17somewhat4:01 AMS/SE4:05 AME
Jul-17very4:44 AMSW4:50 AME/NE

Predictions courtesy of heavens-above.com. For updated nightly predictions, visit spotthestation.nasa.gov.

Lunar Phases

First Quarter:Full:Third Quarter:New:
Jun. 30, 8:51 PMJul. 9, 12:06 AMJul. 16, 3:25 PMJul. 23, 5:45 AM

The Moon's increasing brightness as Full Moon approaches washes out fainter stars, random meteors, and other celestial objects – this is bad for most observing, but excellent for new observers, as only the brightest stars (those that mark the major constellations) and planets remain visible for your easy identification. If you've never tried it, the Moon is a wonderful binocular object. The labeled image identifies features easily found with low-power binoculars.

Lunar features prominent in low-power binoculars.

Observing Guides

Items and events listed below assume you're outside and observing most anywhere in New York state. The longer you're outside and away from indoor or bright lights, the better your dark adaption will be. If you have to use your smartphone, find a red light app or piece of red acetate, else set your brightness as low as possible.

The sky at 10 p.m. from June 30 to July 7, accurate all week except for the changing Moon position.

Evening Skies: The two most prominent shapes in the sky – the Big Dipper and the Summer Triangle – are both high in the evening sky this month on opposite sides of the zenith, the point directly above you. The Big Dipper is a bright and easy guide for finding Polaris, the north star. From its handle, you can "arc" down to Arcturus. Jupiter, which stands out soon after sunset, is close to the bright star Spica in Virgo and to the southwest of bright Arcturus in Bootes. Saturn is also visible as dusk approaches, rising soon after the bright orange star Antares in Scorpius.

The sky at 4 a.m. from June 30 to July 7, accurate all week except for the changing Moon position.

Morning Skies: Venus is unmistakable in the early morning sky, second only to the Moon in brightness before sunrise. Saturn will have moved far to the southwest as the Earth rotates, which also brings the Big Dipper close to the northern horizon. The dim, distant planet Uranus is in Gemini and can be seen with low-power binoculars, appearing as a faint, blue-green star.

Planetary Viewing

Mercury: Mercury is hidden within the bright light of the the morning sun. Mercury will be visible again when it returns to sunset skies in July before becoming a morning target again in August.

Venus: Venus remains unmistakable in the early morning and even into sunrise if you know where to look. The planet does continue to slip away from us in its orbit, but we see more of its illuminated surface in the process. The result is an only slight dimming of the planet over the entire month as it goes from 40% to 60% illumination.

Mars: Mars sets very close to dusk right now, making it a difficult target without binoculars and a very clear horizon. Mars will not return to our pre-midnight skies until this time next year, but will become a morning target this mid-August.

Jupiter: If you look south soon after sunset, Jupiter will be the brightest object you'll see this summer (or second-brightest if the moon is out). Jupiter has a close approach with the Moon in Virgo on June 30th and July 1st, and is otherwise the most prominent object in the evening sky this month. Low power binoculars are excellent for spying the four bright Galilean moons – Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto – and several online guides will even map their orbits for you.

Jupiter and the Moon on June 30 and July 1 in Virgo, with bright Spica close by.

Saturn: Still on the western edge of the brightest part of the Milky Way, Saturn is going to spend the next 18 months making its way to the eastern edge, all the while giving us an excellent observing target from late Spring to mid-Autumn. While markedly closer to us, Saturn is not the brightest object in this part of the sky. Your eyes may be drawn to the orange star Antares in Scorpius first – simply look to the east for another bright pinpoint.

The very busy map of the Saturn position this month contains a treasure trove of Messier ("M") Objects observable with good binoculars, steady arms or a tripod, and a bit of patience. As we look south and in the vicinity of Saturn, we're staring into the dense heart of the Milky Way Galaxy itself during the summer. The wealth of objects in this part of the sky is not coincidence! Even a cursory scan of this part of the sky will reveal wispy features and small clusters of stars. A good star chart and some guide stars will help you determine just which object you're looking at.

Saturn, Antares, and the great assortment of Messier Objects towards the Milky Way center.

Dr. Damian Allis is the director of CNY Observers and a NASA Solar System Ambassador. If you know of any other NY astronomy events or clubs to promote, please contact the author.

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Upstate New York Stargazing – July, 2016

Author's Note: The "Upstate New York Stargazing" series ran on the newyorkupstate.com and syracuse.com websites (and limited use in-print) from 2016 to 2018. For the full list of articles, see the Upstate New York Stargazing page.

Night sky-gazing in Upstate NY: What to look for in July

The Milky Way is visible in this 2013 photo shot in California (Don Bartletti | Los Angeles Times). Click the image for a larger size.

Updated: Mar. 21, 2019, 5:33 p.m. | Published: Jul. 07, 2016, 3:24 p.m.

(Special to Syracuse.com)

By Damian Allis | Contributing writer

Upstate New York has had a rare recent run of some excellent clear nights. Those taking the extra hour past sunset to take in some of the nighttime sky have not been disappointed, with the three bright planets Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn making ideal targets for good binoculars and small telescopes. With the Summer Solstice just past us, amateur astronomers are now adding up the extra minute-or-so of dark sky each evening, while the younger astrophiles (and their parents) are able to return to observing free from worries of sleeping through morning classes with the end of the school year.

July is also the month when the band of our Milky Way galaxy – the original “late night TV” for most of human history, returns in all of its cloud band-like glory to suburban and darker skies during reasonable observing hours (that is, before midnight for most of us).

Your First Steps Outside:

Items and events listed below assume you’re outside and observing between 9:00 p.m. and midnight throughout July anywhere in New York State. The longer you’re outside and away from indoor or bright lights, the better your dark adaption will be. If you have to use your smartphone, find a red light app or piece of red acetate, else set your brightness as low as possible.

The view looking Southwest at 10:00 p.m. on July 15th (except for the changing Moon position, this mid-month view is accurate for all of July). Image made with Stellarium. Click the image for a larger size.

If you walk outside around 9 p.m., you’ll not be able to miss Jupiter beaming bright to the West/Southwest. It will be the first “star” visible after sunset and is easily confused as being a distant plane. Through the first-half of July you’ll be able to find the bright star Regulus in Leo the Lion to Jupiter’s right, then Leo’s tail star Denebola (not as bright as Regulus, but still an easy find) above Jupiter. Sweeping left from Jupiter along the red line above, your first bright stopping point is the star Spica in Virgo. Move your eyes a similar distance to the left to land on the very bright and red-orange Mars, now sitting in Libra the Scales. Mars is second only to Jupiter in brightness right now – if you can see Jupiter before dusk, Mars will also be visible to the South, in which case test your eyes with finding the bright star Spica near their middle. Star hop to the left of Mars and you next land on Antares, a red-orange supergiant that is the heart of Scorpius. Leaving the line above, the planet Saturn lies just above, and brighter than, Antares.

Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are three of the five “Superior Planets” in our Solar System – which simply means they are on the outside of Earth’s orbit with respect to the Sun (Venus and Mercury then referred to as “Inferior Planets” – and, to temper our planet’s ego, we’re an Inferior Planet to all the Superior Planets). Uranus and Neptune, the remaining two Superior Planets, can be tough catches that require some decently dark skies (and, especially for Neptune, magnification).

ISS And Other Bright Flyovers:

Satellite flyovers are commonplace (several bright passes per hour, dozens hourly once you know what to look for), yet a thrill to new observers of all ages. Few scheduled flyovers compare in brightness or interest to the International Space Station. The flyovers of the football-sized craft with its massive solar panel arrays can be predicted to within several seconds, with these flyovers taking several minutes to complete. The Top-10 brightest July flyovers for Upstate NY (in terms of pre-midnight timing and peak brightness) are listed below (predictions courtesy of heavens-above.com). Due to its orbit, we won’t see pre-midnight flyovers until later this month, then we’ll have many bright flyovers in August. Simply go out a few minutes before the start time, orient yourself, and look for what will first seem like a distant plane (the difference being that satellites don’t have flashing lights at their wingtips – or wingtips, for that matter).

  DateApproximate Start TimeStarting DirectionApproximate End TimeEnding Direction
Tue, 269:30 p.m.S-SW9:36 p.m.E-NE
Tue, 2611:06 p.m.W11:12 p.m.NE
Wed, 2711:50 p.m.W-NW11:56 p.m.NE
Thu, 2810:57 p.m.W11:03 p.m.NE
Fri, 2910:04 p.m.W10:10 p.m.NE
Fri, 2911:41 p.m.NW11:46 p.m.NE
Sat, 309:10 p.m.W-SW9:17 p.m.NE
Sat, 3010:48 p.m.W-NW10:53 p.m.NE
Sun, 319:55 p.m.W-NW10:00 p.m.NE
Sun, 3111:32 p.m.NW11:36 p.m.N-NE

Predictions courtesy of heavens-above.com.

This Month’s Moon:

New Moon – July 5th

First Quarter – July 12th

Full Moon (the Full Buck Moon) – July 19th

Third-Quarter – July 26th

Your first thin Crescent Moon appears close to sunset on July 6th and is in the pre-Midnight sky until July 25nd. The Moon’s increasing brightness as Full Moon approaches washes out fainter stars and celestial objects – this is bad for most observing, but excellent for new observers, as only the brightest stars (those that mark the major constellations) and planets remain visible for your easy identification. If you’ve never tried it, the Moon is a wonderful binocular object.

This Month’s Planets:

Jupiter: The king of the planets lies to the West/Southwest, biting at the hind feet of the constellation Leo the Lion. It is the brightest object in the nighttime sky after the Moon right now and appears early after sunset. Over the next few days, you will hopefully see news and updates about NASA’s Juno Mission as it begins its Jupiter survey on July 4th – we’ve still many questions about this planet despite (and because of) many previous missions.

Through good binoculars, Jupiter is a bright disc circled by its four Galilean Moons (Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto). You can continue the tradition begun by Galileo himself by observing these moons and, over the course of an hour or less, see their positions change even with low-power binoculars.

Mars: We made our closest approach to the bright red-orange Mars in late May and it continues to be prominent in the Southeast/South sky, balanced between the scales of the constellation Libra. Jupiter and Saturn, being much farther away, seem to move very little against the backdrop of stars. Mars, on the other hand, will reduce its distance to the bright star Antares by half from July 1st to 31st. On August 23/24, Mars will delight observers and astrophotographers as it passes between Antares and Saturn.

Saturn: Off to the East of Mars lies Saturn. While currently in the constellation Ophiuchus, you might more easily find it by looking for a bright pair of stars – one of them will be the red-orange star Antares in the constellation Scorpius, and Saturn will be the other bright “star” above it. These two will be a pair for as long as we can see them this year. In good binoculars, Saturn and its rings appear as a small oval. With big binos or a small telescope, you should be able to distinguish between the planet and its rings, and maybe even see the dark Cassini Division within the rings.

Learn A Constellation: Saturn And Antares Take The Sting Out Of Finding Scorpius

If you’re brand new to observing, your quickest route to picking out the constellations is to start bright – working your way from the most easily seen stars down to the dimmer ones, playing celestial connect-the-dots until the mythological characters reveal themselves. Saturn and Scorpius’ heart-star Antares provide a bright pair to your South that will help mark the constellation out. The Rey’s Diagram for Scorpius (just one of many possible representations you might come across that all still contain the hooked tail) is shown below, with shortened claws attempting to pinch Mars to their West, and its curved tail dipping South (likely below the horizon) before curling back up again to the East with the bright stinger star Shaula. If you can make this shape out, consider yourself yet another in a long line of observers who, starting with (at least) the Babylonians, have seen this scorpion in the sky for (at least) 5,000 years.

The view looking South at 10:00 p.m. on July 15th (except for the changing Moon position, this mid-month view is accurate for all of July). Use the bright Mars, Saturn, and Antares to find the rest of Scorpius’ body. Image made with Stellarium. Click the image for a larger size.

Dr. Damian Allis is the director of CNY Observers and a NASA Solar System Ambassador. If you know of any other NY astronomy events or clubs to promote, please contact the author.

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