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 July 7 to 14
Updated: Jul. 07, 2017, 3:06 p.m. | Published: Jul. 07, 2017, 2:06 p.m.
By Damian Allis | Contributing writer
This summertime weekly summary for planetary, satellite, constellation, and other observing opportunities covers the second week of July. With luck, the soot and smoke from the 4th of July celebrations have cleared, leaving views obstructed only by occasional cloud cover.
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 the remainder 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
|Adirondack Public Observatory||Tupper Lake||Public Observing||July 7||1/2 Hour After Sunset||email, website|
|Adirondack Public Observatory||Tupper Lake||Public Observing||July 14||1/2 Hour After Sunset||email, website|
|Adirondack Public Observatory||Tupper Lake||Public Observing||July 21||1/2 Hour After Sunset||email, website|
|Adirondack Public Observatory||Tupper Lake||Public Observing||July 28||1/2 Hour After Sunset||email, website|
|Albany Area Amateur Astronomers & Dudley Observatory||Schenectady||Night Sky Adventure||July 18||7:00 – 10:00 PM||email, website|
|Albany Area Amateur Astronomers & Dudley Observatory||Schenectady||AAAA Meeting||July 20||7:30 – 9:00 PM||email, website|
|Albany Area Amateur Astronomers & Dudley Observatory||Schenectady||Octagon Barn Star Party||July 28||8:00 – 10:00 PM||email, website|
|Astronomy Section, Rochester Academy of Science||Rochester||ASRAS Member Meeting||July 7||7:30 – 9:00 PM||email, website|
|Astronomy Section, Rochester Academy of Science||Rochester||Public Star Party @ Northampton Park||July 10||9:30 – 11:00 PM||email, website|
|Astronomy Section, Rochester Academy of Science||Rochester||Open House at Farash Center||July 23||12:00 – 4:00 PM||email, website|
|Astronomy Section, Rochester Academy of Science||Rochester||RocheSTAR Fest 2017||July 28 – 29||daytime & nighttime||email, website|
|Baltimore Woods||Marcellus||Bob Piekiel & Summer Skies||July 21/22||8:00 – 11:00 PM||email, website|
|Clark Reservation State Park||Jamesville||Bob Piekiel & Summer Skies||July 28/29||8:00 – 11:00 PM||315-492-1590 website|
|Green Lakes State Park||Fayetteville||Bob Piekiel – Choosing A Telescope||July 7||7:00 – 9:00 PM||315-637-6111 website|
|Green Lakes State Park||Fayetteville||Bob Piekiel & Summer Skies||July 14/15||7:30 – 10:30 PM||315-637-6111 website|
|Kopernik Observatory & Science Center||Vestal||Friday Night Lecture & Observing||July 7||8:00 PM||email, website|
|Kopernik Observatory & Science Center||Vestal||Friday Night Lecture & Observing||July 14||8:00 PM||email, website|
|Kopernik Observatory & Science Center||Vestal||Friday Night Lecture & Observing||July 21||8:00 PM||email, website|
|Kopernik Observatory & Science Center||Vestal||Friday Night Lecture & Observing||July 28||8:00 PM||email, website|
|Mohawk Valley Astronomical Society||Waterville||Public Stargazing @ Waterville Library||July 15||9:15 – 11:59 PM||email, website|
|Mohawk Valley Astronomical Society||Waterville||Solar and Star Gazing||July 20||5:00 – 10:00 PM||email, website|
|Mohawk Valley Astronomical Society||Waterville||Public Stargazing @ Prospect Library & Quarry||July 22||7:45 – 11:59 PM||email, 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.
The ISS remains a late night/early morning observing target this week, with visible double flyovers on the 9th, 11th, and 13th. Those enjoying an extended observing session on the 14th will even be treated to a rare triple flyover! Properly equipped members of the amateur radio community can even add audio to their visual experiences by listening to transmissions from the ISS – see ariss.org or issfanclub.com for details.
|Date||Brightness||Approx. Start||Start Direct.||Approx. End||End Direct.|
|7-Jul||extremely||4:44 AM||SW||4:50 AM||E/NE|
|8-Jul||very||3:53 AM||S||3:57 AM||E/NE|
|9-Jul||moderately||3:03 AM||E/SE||3:04 AM||E|
|9-Jul||extremely||4:36 AM||W/SW||4:42 AM||NE|
|10-Jul||extremely||3:45 AM||S/SW||3:49 AM||E/NE|
|11-Jul||very||2:55 AM||E/SE||2:57 AM||E/NE|
|11-Jul||very||4:28 AM||W||4:34 AM||NE|
|12-Jul||extremely||3:37 AM||W||3:41 AM||NE|
|13-Jul||extremely||2:47 AM||E/NE||2:49 AM||E/NE|
|13-Jul||moderately||4:20 AM||W/NW||4:25 AM||NE|
|14-Jul||moderately||1:56 AM||E/NE||1:57 AM||E/NE|
|14-Jul||very||3:29 AM||W/NW||3:33 AM||NE|
|14-Jul||moderately||5:05 AM||NW||5:10 AM||NE|
|Full:||Third Quarter:||New:||First Quarter:|
|Jul. 9, 12:06 AM||Jul. 16, 3:25 PM||Jul. 23, 5:45 AM||Jul. 30, 11:23 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.
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.
Evening Skies: The two most prominent shapes in the sky, the Big Dipper and the Summer Triangle, are joined by a third shape you will hopefully come to recognize just as easily. The body of Sagittarius, close to the southern horizon from our view in New York all summer and into fall, can have its dots connected to look just like a teapot sitting flat above the tree line. Use the gap between Saturn and Antares to gauge the relative width of the shape you need to look for.
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.
Morning Skies: Venus is unmistakable in the early morning sky, second only to the Moon in brightness before sunrise. Venus is accompanied by the Pleiades star cluster and Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull this week – an early warning that, in fact, winter is coming.
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 late July before becoming a morning target again in August.
Venus: Venus remains unmistakable in the early morning and even into sunrise. With good, steady binoculars, you should be able to see Venus as either half-lit of as a wide crescent – and you can follow the changing phase of Venus as it and the Earth make our way around the Sun.
This week, Venus even does a flyby of two of our two closest open star clusters. Starting July 9th, Venus will be within the binocular field of view of the Hyades, our closest star cluster at 150 light years away. The brightest pairing will occur on July 12th and 13th, when Venus approaches Aldebaran – a star which is not, despite its perfect position in the "V", a gravitationally-bound member of the Hyades. Watching over this flyby lies our third closest open star cluster – the Pleiades.
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). 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.
On the night of July 10th, astronomers will obtain the closest view of the Great Red Spot of Jupiter that we've had since we began properly monitoring this massive storm – back in 1830. The Juno Spacecraft, currently in Jovian orbit and providing as much excellent science as it is astounding images, will pass right over the storm, providing data and images sure to make the rounds in the news and social media for days after. For more information, check out the official NASA News release.
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.
Taking the southern view this week as a whole, there's plenty to take in for naked eye and binocular observing. With Jupiter and Arcturus jumping out soon after sunset, give the sky another half-hour or more and guide your sights to the west to find Saturn, itself close to the red-orange star Arcturus. With these two found, wait a little longer for the skies to darken before pouring over the stars around the Sagittarius teapot – you're looking into the heart of the Milky Way as you do so.
If you want to see the featured globular cluster M13 with your own eyes, find bright Vega and Arcturus above you and look for a trapezoid roughly half-way between them – this is the torso of Hercules. In 10×50 binoculars, you should see a small fuzzy star that you can't seem to bring into focus surrounded by stars that you can. That fuzzy star is the combined light of roughly 250,000 stars all bound together by gravity.