A person looks at a starry night sky with binoculars.
Manitoba Skies

The Sky for July 2024

The Sky for July 2024

The Visible Planets

For planets, early morning is the time to observe. Although Saturn rises shortly after midnight, it stays low until the early morning hours. For unaided eye viewing you can catch it anytime after midnight, but telescope viewers should wait until it rises out of the thick murky (and probably smoky) air near the horizon for the clearest views.

Mercury moves into the evening sky this month, but the geometry keeps it very low to the horizon. It will be very difficult to catch even with binoculars, probably lost in the bright twilight after sunset. The best time to try for it is on the evening of July 7, when the thin crescent Moon will act as a pointer (see Sky Calendar below).

Venus reaches perihelion, the closest point to the Sun in its orbit, on July 10, but the same geometry keeps it very low in the west after sunset. What is the first day you can spot it with the unaided eye?

Earth reaches aphelion, the farthest point to the Sun in its orbit, on July 5. The slight change in the Earth-Sun distance doesn’t cause the seasons, but it does influence how long they are – this is why northern hemisphere summer weather (which occurs in July and August) is less pronounced than southern hemisphere summer weather (which occurs in January, when the Earth is closest to the Sun).

Mars spends the month in the morning sky, edging closer to the famous Pleiades star cluster and the planet Jupiter. It rises about 2:30 a.m. local time at the beginning of July and by 1:30 a.m. local time by month’s end. Still distant, it appears too small in a telescope for very good views.

Jupiter rises about 3:30 a.m. in the east-southeast, the brightest object in this part of the sky and just above the V-shaped star cluster that marks the face of Taurus the Bull. By month’s end it rises before 2 a.m. and forms a pretty triangle with Mars and the bright star Aldebaran.

Saturn is getting high enough this month for decent telescopic views, but you’ll have to get up early. The ringed planet rises shortly after midnight in early July and by 10:30 p.m. at the end of the month, but it will be at its best telescopic view when at its highest, in the early morning sky a couple of hours before dawn. Saturn’s 29.5-year orbit around the Sun gives us a differing angle to views the amazing rings of Saturn, and this year we see them almost edge-on. While this makes it less impressive than other years, they are still an amazing sight in any telescope. This geometry also opens up a series of events for Saturn’s 146 moons, several of which will transit across the planet’s disk or cast their shadow onto the cloud-tops.

The Outer Planets

All of these objects require binoculars or a telescope to spot. Due to their distance, they appear as tiny spots or star-like points, and will require a good star atlas or app to positively identify them. Try Stellarium’s web version or the free Stellarium program for PC.

Uranus is near Mars in the morning sky, but you’ll need binoculars to see it as a tiny faint “star” among a sea of other stars. Your best chance will be in mid-July, when the two planets pass within a degree of each other – that’s about twice the apparent size of the Moon int he sky. See the Sky Calendar entry for July 15th for details.
Neptune is near Saturn in our sky, but you’ll need large binoculars or a telescope plus a good star chart or app to track it down.
Dwarf planet Pluto reaches opposition on July 23, whicvh usually means a planet is at its brightest and most visible. That’s true in this case, however for Pluto, “best” is relative. It’s so small and distant that you’ll need a good-sized telescope to be able to identify it.
Star chart showing the positions of Comet Olbers in July 2024.


In July there is one comet within the range of binoculars. Comet 13P/Olbers was last visible from Earth in 1956, and takes 69 years to orbit the Sun. On this pass through the inner solar system (called the comet’s “apparition”), Comet Olbers passed closest to the Sun on June 30th and is now slowly swinging back into the depths of space. It is visible in July in the evening sky low in the northwest after darkness falls, travelling slowly through the little-known constellations of Lynx and Leo Minor (down below the feet of Ursa major the Great Bear).

Comet Olbers is probably visible in binoculars only from a dark sky as a faint fuzzy spot without a tail. Recent images of the comet show a detailed blue ion tail and a wide diffuse dust tail, but these will only be visible in long-exposure telescope images. Still, spotting one of these celestial interlopers on their uncommon passes through the solar system reminds us of how many small bodies in the solar system are out there, just below the limit of our visibility.

For a printer-friendly version of the star chart click here.

Sky Calendar for July 2024

3 Jul 2024 (morning sky): The crescent Moon sits to the upper left of Jupiter in the east-north-east, both fitting comfortably into a binocular field of view. The two form the base of a triangle with the Pleaides at its apex. Mars is farther east and higher.

5 Jul 2024: New Moon occurs at 5:57 p.m. CDT.

7 Jul 2024 (evening sky): The crescent Moon and Mercury are in the same binocular field. Mercury is to the lower right of the Moon, but sets soon after the Sun so you’ll need a very clear horizon and good timing to spot them.

13 Jul 2024: First Quarter Moon occurs at 5:49 p.m. CDT.

15 Jul 2024 (morning sky): Bright Mars passes close to distant Uranus, so close that they’ll be visible in the same field of view of most telescopes for several days centered on the 15th.

17 Jul 2024 (evening sky): The waxing gibbous Moon is to the left of the bright red star Antares, very low in the south. The Moon actually passed in front of (or occulted) the star about 2pm this afternoon, but it wasn’t visible on this side of the Earth.

21 Jul 2024: Full Moon occurs at 5:17 a.m. CDT.

23 Jul 2024: The dwarf planet Pluto reaches opposition, the point when it is opposite the Sun and visible all night. Unfortunately, its position in the southern sky makes Pluto a difficult observation from Canada this year without electronic imaging or travel.

24 Jul 2024 (morning sky): The waning gibbous Moon is to the right of Saturn this evening, but far enough away that they won’t both fit into the field of view of typical binoculars. The Moon will occult (pass in front of) Saturn later today, but it is not visible from Manitoba.

27 Jul 2024: Last Quarter Moon occurs at 9:51 p.m. CDT.

28 Jul 2024 (morning sky): Technically the peak of the Pisces Australis meteor shower, but it is not really a northern hemisphere event.

30 July 2024 (morning sky): The South Delta Aquariids peaks in the pre-dawn hours this morning. See “Meteor Showers” below.

A family looking at the stars.

Other Events

Meteor Showers

This month there are two meteor showers (although neither is a “big” one). The one perhaps worth watching is the South Delta Aquariid meteor shower, which is slowly building throughout July to a peak on the morning of July 30. Patient observers may spot a dozen or more meteors per hour from this shower in the pre-dawn hours of the 30th. (Compare this to the typical 2 or 3 so meteors per hour you can see on any summer night.)

Technically, the Piscid Australis meteor shower also peaks in July, and you’ll see it listed in several sky calendars, but it will contribute less than 1 meteor per hour to Manitoba skies at best, so it is mentioned here only so you don’t get too hyped up over a listing elsewhere.

“The Blaze Star”

A note that T Corona Borealis, the so-called “Blaze Star”, is expected to go nova sometime this summer, brightening to about 2nd magnitude (about the brightness of the stars in the Big Dipper). It is located just beside the “crown” or Corona Borealis, and is normally too faint to find without a telescope. It is a double star system that has a massive eruption in brightness every 80 years or so, and observations indicate it could go at any moment. Watch for an upcoming blog detailing how you can see this rare event, and how simple observations anyone can do can contribute to our scientific understanding of this amazing star system.