Welcome to Ontario Parks’ “Eyes in the Skies” series. This space (<– see what we did there?) will cover a wide range of astronomy topics with a focus on what can be seen from the pristine skies found in our provincial parks.
July has finally arrived. Summer is the perfect time to escape the noise, air and light pollution of larger urban areas and head to the peace and serenity of a provincial park.
July is also home to a number of beautiful constellations, full of interesting stories to tell.
Here are our astronomical highlights for July 2023:
The Earth reaches its farthest point from the Sun on July 5. This point is called “Aphelion” and is, on average, about five million kilometers further away than when the Earth is at its closest (“Perihelion”) in early January.
As described in our March issue, the reason our summers are hot despite our distance from the sun has a lot to do with the Earth’s tilt and not its distance.
Sunrise and sunset times
Late sunsets in July give people the opportunity to enjoy spectacular sunsets.
|1st of July||July 15||July 31st|
|Sunrise||5:38 am||5:49 a.m.||6:07 a.m.|
|One||1:30 in the afternoon||13:32||13:32|
The moon has long captivated observers of all ages. The lunar phases of the July moon occur as follows:
The planet Venus, which has dazzled us so much in recent months, is finally disappearing from our sight. By the end of the month, it will be largely obscured by the Sun’s glare and will set about 20 minutes later.
Since Venus has all but disappeared from our nighttime view, we’ll have to wait until after 11:00 pm to see the next major planet: Saturn.
July has 2 minor meteor showers, the Capricornids and the Delta Aquarids. Both showers provide only a few meteors per hour (for the Capyrcornids) and about 20 per hour for the Delta Aquarids.
The Capriconids do not have a clear peak but rather rise and fall gently in terms of the number of meteors per hour. The Delta Aquarids, on the other hand, have a notable peak between July 30 and 31.
However, because the moon is almost full at the end of July, it will be difficult to see the meteors. The good news, however, is that the annual Persied meteor shower, which will fall almost two weeks later, should be close to the new moon and will provide the viewer with many more meteors.
As always, the best way to prepare for a meteor shower is to:
- rest a lot
- wear sunglasses for at least three days before showering (to maximize your eyes’ night vision ability)
- set up a lounger and sleeping bag (use some kind of dew cover or your bag will end up quite wet)
- drink a lot and eat something
…and, best of all, enjoy the experience with good company.
A meteor shower occurs when Earth enters the debris field of a comet that long ago passed around the sun.
These pieces of dust and sand, often no larger than a thumbnail, enter Earth’s atmosphere and burn up high above the ground.
Learn more about summer meteor showers.
Featured constellations: the birds of summer
In this month’s featured constellations, we take a look at the Summer Triangle and the constellations of Lyra, Cygnus, Aquila and Scorpius.
Learn more about these star stories here.
The Summer Triangle returns
July is also a good time to see the Summer Triangle and the constellations of stars and objects it encompasses. You can learn more about these stars and how to see them here.
This completes our review of the July skies…
Come back next month to learn more about our galaxy!