What to See in the Night Sky in July 2022

From a Thunder Moon to dueling meteor showers, this month is full of celestial activity.

Comet Neowise C/2020 F3 at sunset over misty mountains
Comet Neowise C/2020 F3 at sunset over misty mountains.

Anton Petrus / Getty Images

While fireworks will dominate the evening skies on the Fourth of July across the U.S., the rest of the month will feature visual spectacles of a different kind, from the full super Thunder Moon to a visit from a rare glowing giant from interstellar space. So, set your alarm clock, have a blanket ready, and check out some of July's celestial highlights below. Wishing you clear skies!

June’s Late New Moon Kicks Off July’s Dark Skies (July 1-5)

veil nebula
Veil Nebula.

Wikimedia CC BY-SA 3.0

Thanks to a late new moon on June 28, July will be ushered in under some exceptionally dark skies. For the first week at least, you can train your eyes, binoculars, or telescope and be treated to pristine views of galaxies, shooting stars, and—if you’re in the United States—more than a few fireworks displays. 

Need a target? This month, in celebration of July’s colorful nighttime displays, we’re recommending the Veil Nebula (NGC 6960). Caused by a supernova that exploded between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago, this beautiful cloud of heated and ionized gas and dust stretches 2,400 light-years across. According to Sky and Telescope, at the time of its formation, the Veil Nebula would have been brighter than Venus and visible from Earth during the day. You can spot it today, using either binoculars or a small telescope, by looking in the constellation Cygnus.

Earth Is Farthest From the Sun (July 4)

You wouldn’t know it based on the oppressive heat waves gripping much of the Northern Hemisphere, but the Earth’s elliptical orbit will shortly reach its farthest point from the sun. Called aphelion, this moment will occur on July 4 at 3:10 A.M. EST at a distance of 94,509,598 miles. Celebrate by jumping in your favorite body of water, investing in an energy-efficient fan, or dreaming of cooler days ahead with an advance booking at a luxury ice hotel.

Take in the Beauty of the Full Thunder Super Moon (July 13)

With July being the stormiest month of the year for the Northern Hemisphere, it only makes sense that its full moon nickname would follow suit. For those lucky enough to have clear skies, the so-called Thunder Moon (frankly, the best moon nickname of the year) will make its trip across the evening sky on July 13. Peak illumination will come at 2:38 P.M. EST.

This month’s Thunder Moon is also a supermoon, a phenomenon where the full moon is closest to the Earth in its elliptical orbit. Called lunar perigee, the moon will appear 15% larger and 30% brighter.

In addition to its association with storms, this full moon has also been nicknamed the Buck Moon (for when deer begin growing their antlers), the Ripe Corn Moon, and the Hay Moon. Europeans also called it the Mead Moon, as it coincided with the summer honey harvest for making the delicious drink.

Gaze Upon a Record-Breaking, Rare Comet (July 14)

While comets entering our inner solar system on their way around the sun are a common occurrence, the one that will hopefully become visible through backyard telescopes around July 14 is a rare and ancient giant. Named "C/2017 K2," scientists believe the comet originated from the Oort Cloud, a spherical traffic jam of icy bodies in interstellar space. So vast is the Oort Cloud from our sun that it’s estimated C/2017 K2 has been traveling toward us for millions of years.

Even more incredible, C/2017 K2 began heating up and glowing at a distance from the sun never before observed by astronomers. When it was discovered in 2017 beyond the orbit of Saturn, a mixture of ancient ices on its surface were already sublimating—generating a halo of glowing gases around 81,000 miles wide or 10 times the diameter of Earth. In contrast, comets typically “wake up” and begin glowing around Jupiter or even closer.

While C/2017 K2's closest approach (167 million miles) won’t make it close to Earth or even Mars, it will still glow strongly enough to be observed by small telescopes. EarthSky has a bunch of charts to help you find it and its estimated 500,000-mile–long tail.

Stay Up for the Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower (July 28-29)

A precursor to the more popular Perseid meteor shower in August, the Delta Aquarids begin mid-July and peak around July 28-29 (the video above is from the 2020 shower). The meteors appear to originate just before the constellation Aquarius the Water Bearer in the southern sky. In reality, they're debris from Comet 96P Machholz, a short-period sun-grazing comet that swings our way every five years. To catch the shower at its best, look up on the morning of the 28th or 29th between 2 and 3 a.m.

Spot Some Alpha Capricornids Fireballs (July 30-31)

Want another meteor shower? July aims to please. 

While the annual Alpha Capricornids meteor shower isn’t known for prolific numbers of shooting stars, what it lacks in quantity it more than makes up for in quality. This shower, originating from parent body Comet 169P/NEAT, has a habit of producing exceptionally bright fireballs. On the evening of July 31, the shower will reach its peak, with viewing equally good on both sides of the equator. With the moon only 5% full, dark skies should make any Earth-grazing fireballs really pop. 

According to a 2010 study of the Alpha Capricornids, it’s estimated that in 300 years' time the bulk of the dust left behind by Comet 169P/NEAT will fully intersect Earth’s orbit, transforming it into “a major annual shower in 2220–2420 a.d., stronger than any current annual shower.”

The Return of the 'Ghost of the Summer Dawn' (July 30)

ghost of the summer dawn


Orion the Hunter is a distinctive constellation during the winter months thanks to the three bright stars—Mintaka, Alnitak and Alnilam—that make up its belt. On July 30, this constellation will make its eastern return in the early morning hours, an event beautifully nicknamed "the ghost of the shimmering summer dawn." The photo above shows a visualization of the constellation on the morning of July 31 just after 5 a.m. EST.

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