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See a Rare Comet, Meteor Shower, and Manhattanhenge This Month

See a Rare Comet, Meteor Shower, and Manhattanhenge This Month

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Fireworks won’t be the only lights glittering in the July night skies. This month has a host of interstellar attractions in store, from a meteor shower and planet meetups to round two of the much-hyped Manhattanhenge in New York City and the sighting of a historic comet that hasn’t been visible from Earth since the year Disneyland opened.

It’s an action-packed month that calls for early mornings and late nights, so whether you’re sky scouting on vacation, or catching the constellations in your own backyard, here are the best night-sky events to watch for this July.

July 1: Comet 13P/Olbers

Kick off the month with a history-making comet sighting — Comet 13P/Olbers to be exact. It’s the first time in 69 years that this comet will be visible from Earth. According to stargazing app Star Walk, your best time to catch it is early this month. However, it will remain visible (with stargazing binoculars or a telescope) into late July and August, but its brightness wanes as the summer goes on. It will have a magnitude from around 7.0 until July 28. Watch for it after sunset as it travels beneath Ursa Major toward the northwest horizon until about midnight.

July 3: Jupiter-Moon Conjunction

Set that alarm early on July 3, as Jupiter and the moon meet in the sky a few hours before sunset, depending on your viewing location, according to In-the-Sky.org. The space objects will appear within five degrees (roughly three finger widths) of each other, with the moon sliding above Jupiter.

 July 5: New Moon

See the stars and galaxies at their brightest tonight, July 5, the night of the new moon. The official time of the new moon is 6:57 p.m., according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, but you can enjoy those inky skies — and the stars that bejewel them — all night, particularly from an area with minimal light pollution, such as the new DarkSky International-certified Beaver Island, the first Dark Sky Sanctuary in Michigan.

July 12-13: Manhattanhenge

If you missed May’s Manhattanhenge, you’re in luck: the spectacle — where the setting sun perfectly aligns with Manhattan’s city grid — is returning to the Big Apple this month. According to the American Museum of Natural History, the Manhattanhenge view with the full solar orb shining between the skyscrapers will occur at 8:20 p.m. ET on July 12. The half sun on the horizon version will appear the next evening, July 13, at 8:21 p.m. ET. Recommended viewing places include 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd, and 57th streets. Since the sun sets behind New Jersey, AMNH suggests a viewing point as far east on Manhattan as possible, as long as you can still see New Jersey. 

July 21: Full Buck Moon

See the month’s full moon, nicknamed the “buck moon” for the antlers that begin growing on male deer around this time, on July 21. The moon will reach its fullest at 6:17 a.m. ET on Sunday, July 21, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

July 21: Mercury Reaches Greatest Eastern Elongation

If you haven’t seen Mercury yet this year, tonight’s the night. The “swift planet” — known for its quick movement across the sky — will reach its greatest eastern elongation around 11:30 p.m. ET on July 21, according to In-the-Sky.org. Find Mercury just after sunset in the constellation Leo, below bright Regulus, above the western horizon. You can view it with the naked eye, although binoculars or a telescope will enhance the view. Don’t miss Venus below and to the right of Mercury, too.

July 29-30: Delta Aquariid Meteor Shower Peak

Overnight from July 29 to 30 will welcome the peak of the Delta Aquariid meteor shower. This shower, which favors the southern hemisphere, could produce up to 20 meteors each hour under a dark, new-moon sky. The peak aligns with a 21 percent illuminated waning crescent moon; your best bet for catching the shower is from dusk to midnight, before the moon rises, according to EarthSky. Watch for it near the Aquarius constellation. If you’re lucky, you may snag a preview of another meteor shower that’s set to peak in August: the strong Perseids, which streak near the constellation Perseus.

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