July Constellations With Star Charts
We’re in the middle of summer here in the Northern Hemisphere and it’s a great time to check out the July constellations! Take a look at the star chart above. We are going to focus on what I call the “big three” summer constellations in today’s post. Those constellations are Draco, Hercules, and Ophiuchus.
These constellations are pretty easy to find. The key to locating them is Ursa Major or the Big Dipper. This constellation is the most recognizable in the sky and during July, it will be nearly straight overhead about an hour after sunset. Once you find the Big Dipper, you’ll be able to locate the other constellations quite easily.
First, let’s look for Draco the Dragon. As you can see from the star chart, Draco surrounds Ursa Minor (the Little Dipper). The “open” part of the Big Dipper faces the tail of Draco. Draco is very close to the North Star and as such, it can be seen throughout the year. The brightest star in Draco is Eltanin, which has an apparent magnitude of 2.36.
If you look south from the head of Draco the Dragon, you’ll find Hercules. History says that Hercules is stepping on the head of Draco. Although Hercules is one of the largest constellations in the night sky, it can be difficult to locate because it is comprised mainly of dim stars. The best way to find Hercules is to locate the quadrangle of stars which form Hercules’s torso.
If you continue to look to the south, below Hercules, you will find Ophiuchus. Ophiuchus is south of Hercules and north of one of the brightest summer stars, Antares. Antares is a red supergiant star with an average magnitude of +1.09 – you can’t miss it! Ophiuchus is one of the original 13 constellations of the zodiac. Ophiuchus is a great place to locate because it is home to Barnard’s star, which is the second closest star to earth. There are also seven Messier objects located within or around Ophiuchus. Many of these Messier objects are Globular Star Clusters and include M14, M10 and M107.
Summer is a great time to check out the night sky – so get out there tonight!