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Minnesota Skies in July

July offers opportunities for stargazing

If we could view the Milky Way edge from a great distance it would look a bit like a fried egg—a central bulge of stars as well as many stars in the plane of the galaxy. The planets of our solar system orbit the Sun in a flat, plane, too. Does the plane of our solar system line up with the plane of the Milky Way? Go to some dark skies and see for yourself!

First, find the plane of our solar system by tracing the line between Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn (Jupiter shines low in the west, Mars gleams to Jupiter's left, and Saturn glows to Mars' left). That line shows the plane of the solar system. Watch the Moon move along that line from July 8 through 16. Now, to see the plane of our galaxy, look low in the south for a tea pot shape (Saggitarius) which is looking toward the center of the galaxy. Follow the smudge of faint distant stars up and to the east and then down to the northeast to the W constellation (Cassiopeia). The milky band of stars that runs from Saggitarius to Cassiopeia shows the plane of the Milky Way, clearly different from the plane of the solar system.

July Sky Pairings and Highlights

Bright Jupiter just above the Moon

Friday, July 8, 2016

10:15 p.m.

Low East

Jupiter right of the Moon

Saturday, July 9, 2016

10:15 p.m.

Low East

Mars 11° below left of the Moon

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

10:30 p.m.

South, Southwest

Mars below the Moon; Saturn 13° left of the Moon

Thursday, July 14, 2016

10:30 p.m.

South, Southwest

Saturn below the Moon

Friday, July 15, 2016

10:30 p.m.

South

Moon, Saturn, and Mars form a line

Saturday, July 16, 2016

10:30 p.m.

South

Bright star Aldebaran just left of the Moon

Friday, July 29, 2016

4:30 a.m.

East

Meet up with other stargazing enthusiasts at Universe in the Park this summer offered through the Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics.