From now on, invites you to find in this article every month the main astronomical events worth watching, as well as key information about them and tips on equipment, necessary or not, to make the most of them. Even if it has already started, we start like this from the month of July.
Spotted by Hubble 5 years ago, the imposing comet C/2017 K2 (PanStarrs) passed closest to Earth on July 14. We do not know the exact size of the comet’s nucleus, which is estimated to be between 18 and 161 km, and its track length is estimated to be between 130,000 and 800,000 km. If you missed it, unfortunately you won’t be able to see it anymore because its orbit is so long that it won’t be back until a few million years later.
Comet Leonard. Image Credit & Copyright: NASA, ESA, A. Feild (STScI)
The largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter has at least 79 natural satellites, such as our Moon. But the most famous (and largest) are the four moons discovered by Galileo: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. On July 17, Io passed in front of Jupiter, allowing its shadow to be observed on the planet at approximately 3:18 am, then the Moon itself at approximately 4:37 am.
Meteor shower of the Southern Delta Aquarids
Like every year, the shower of shooting stars from the Southern Delta Aquarids will return with peak activity on the night of July 28/29. Tonight, if you look at the constellation of Aquarius, and more specifically the star Delta Aquarii, you can enjoy a shower of about 25 meteors per hour, or a little less than one every two minutes. Get your cameras out.
Image courtesy of Mike Lewinsky via Wikimedia/Aquarides.
- Date of observation (peak): 28 and 29/07
- View locations: seen in France
- Recommended surveillance equipment: naked eye or camera on a tripod with long exposure
Alignment of several planets in the solar system
In June 2022, it could be seen that all the other planets in the solar system were aligned. An extremely rare occurrence that will not happen again for another hundred years. However, if you missed the show, you can still see a partial lineup throughout July. this will allow you to see Uranus, Mars, Jupiter, Neptune and Saturn.
- Date of observation (peak): The entire month
- View locations: seen in France
- Recommended surveillance equipment: naked eye, binoculars, telescope
What material to use?
In this article, we will tell you not only about the main astronomical events of the year with their dates and places of observation, but also about how best to use them. Much can be observed with the naked eye, fortunately, but very often it is interesting to additionally use certain devices. This can range from a simple camera on a tripod to a telescope including binoculars or goggles, for example in the event of a solar eclipse.
Do you remember comet NEOWISE that passed in 2020? When you looked at it with the naked eye, you could only see one star, lost among the others. Whereas with a simple camera or a smartphone mounted on a tripod and set to shoot for a few seconds, what is called long exposure in the jargon of photographers could be seen like this:
Comet NEOWISE, taken with a Nikon D7500 on a tripod. Image credit: Karyl AIT KACI ALI.
In fact, much is revealed in front of the camera lens. This also applies to meteor showers, for which we also advise you to use a long exposure camera. Just keep in mind that a tripod is a must for these shots. Here are some models we recommend:
Binoculars also allow you to capture more light by detecting certain astronomical phenomena or certain stars invisible to the naked eye. For example: a simple 10×42 binoculars aimed at the right place will be enough to reveal the Galilean satellites of Jupiter. Here are the two models we recommend with two different magnification levels:
Finally, the most determined can use astronomical glasses and telescopes. They come in all sizes, for all purposes (observing a planet or deep sky like nebulae and galaxies doesn’t require the same equipment) and all levels, from beginner to expert. In this article, we will not recommend telescopes or spotting scopes for experienced amateur astronomers, but rather introductory equipment for beginners. Don’t get me wrong, the equipment below will already allow you to see unusual things like the rings of Saturn.
Pay attention to the last moment, it is quite possible to connect a smartphone or camera to its telescope. To do this, you need to buy an adapter like this (for smartphones) or like this (for Nikon cameras) or even like this (for Canon cameras).
However, astrophotography is an extremely complex field that requires great technology, serious knowledge of astronomy and special equipment. To gain a foothold in this fascinating field, we suggest that those of you who have a small telescope, even a beginner one, try to take a picture of the planet (at a fast shutter speed, at least 1/150 of a second) using a simple smartphone.
To go further, beginner astrophotographers can opt for a tracking system that allows longer exposures to compensate for the Earth’s rotation, or even a Go To mount or telescope. Customizing this material takes time, knowledge and practice.
Image courtesy of ‘A’: Pixabay / FreePhotos