July is a bookend month for stargazing with astronomical events crowding the calendar during the start and end of the month.
The month will kick off with a pairing of bright planets, an event that will whet the appetite of skywatchers awaiting the first supermoon of the year and breathtaking views of the Milky Way.
A supermoon will serve as the backdrop for fireworks displays across the country leading up to Independence Day as the first supermoon of 2023 rises on Monday, July 3.
This year features four supermoons with each appearing slightly bigger and brighter than other full moons throughout the year. The larger appearance is due to the full moon coinciding with the time that the moon is closest to Earth, a point in its orbit known as perigee. However, the difference in size may be difficult to notice with the unaided eye.
July’s full moon is also known as the Thunder Moon, a nickname related to the frequent storms that rumble across North America throughout the month. Other nicknames include the Buck Moon, Berry Moon, Salmon Moon and Halfway Summer Moon.
After July, the next supermoon will rise on the evening of Tuesday, Aug. 1.
Summer has some of the shortest nights of the year across the Northern Hemisphere, but it is the best time to see the Milky Way as the side of the Earth that is facing away from the sun will be pointed toward the core of the galaxy.
The best views of the Milky Way will be on the nights surrounding the new moon as the lack of moonlight will make it easier to see the faint galactic glow. The next new moon will take place on July 17, making the middle of the month the ideal time to look for the galaxy in the night sky.
Even on a clear, moonless night, human-created light pollution can be bright enough to hinder viewing of the Milky Way.
Nearly 80% of people across North America live in areas where light pollution makes it impossible to see the Milky Way, so it is essential to travel to a dark area in order to get a glimpse of the galaxy that we call home.
July will conclude with two meteor showers that will provide a preview of an even more impressive light show that will unfold in mid-August.
The Southern Delta Aquarids and Alpha Capricornids will peak on the final nights of the month, combining for 15 to 20 meteors per hour. The climax of the two showers will occur on the night of July 30 into the morning of July 31, but according to the American Meteor Society, both have plateaulike peaks with good activity focused on the week surrounding peak night.
Stargazers can take advantage of the extended meteor activity by checking the AccuWeather forecast and selecting a night near the end of the month that looks to have the best cloud forecast to scout for shooting stars.
The twin meteor showers at the end of July will be an appetizer before an even more impressive astronomical event lights up the sky a couple of weeks later.
On the night of Saturday, Aug. 12, into the early morning of Aug. 13, the Perseid meteor shower will reach its peak with up to 100 shooting stars per hour. This is one of the best meteor showers of the entire year in part due to the mild summer weather that often accompanies the Perseids.
Produced in association with AccuWeather