Shot of the Milky Way by Tony Milligan at the Tyler Bend Campground Pavilion on the Buffalo River. This location is now within the International Dark Sky Park. 

by Dustin Jayroe

Stargazing can be an incredibly humbling experience. Simply looking at the sky on any given night allows one to not only marvel at the vastness and splendor of our universe, but also to peer back at the history of it.

Because it takes time for the light from an object to reach our eyes here on earth, the light from the stars above us every night is actually from the past. For the moon, it takes about 1.3 seconds for the light to reach earth, so we will always see the moon as it was 1.3 seconds ago. A random speck of light in the sky could be dozens, hundreds, if not thousands of light years away. For instance, Polaris, the North Star, is 323 light years from earth. Gazing upon it is seeing light that is older than the United States as a country.  

Starting this summer, AY will be outlining the night sky in these easy to digest guides every month, highlighting the biggest and “brightest” celestial events to help better prepare you for stargazing activities; whether it is as simple as looking up when taking the dog outside, or as official as planning date night – we have you covered.

This month features local astrophotography from Arkansan Tony Milligan. You can find more of his spectacular photos on his website, Captured in Time


Moon Phases

Full moon photographed by Tony Milligan at Mallard Lake, just before sunrise. 

New Moon: July 2

First Quarter: July 9

Full Moon: July 16*

Third Quarter: July 24

New Moon: July 31 (Black Moon: second new moon in the same month)

*The full moon of July is often called the “Buck Moon,” for the new antlers that begin emerging from male deer’s foreheads this time of year. 

Meteor Showers

Meteor trails captured by Tony Milligan in Craighead County, outside of Caraway. 

Delta Aquariids Meteor Shower: 7/12 to 8/23

Peak Night: 7/28 – 20 meteors per hour

The Delta Aquariids shower is an annual raining of meteors consisting of debris from comets in the Marsden and Kracht groups. Though meteors from this shower can be seen over the latter half of July and almost all of August, the peak night for “shooting stars” from the Aquariids is on July 28, when as many as 20 meteors per hour can be seen under dark skies. Since the moon is a waning crescent that night, the light from it should not be much of a hindrance, making this a great night for making wishes. 

Make sure to check back in next month, because August features one of the most beloved meteor showers of the year! 


July 9: Saturn at Opposition

Illustration courtesy of NASA (not to scale)

The ringed giant will be at its closest approach to the earth on July 9, and, like Jupiter last month, will have its full face illuminated by the sun for our viewing pleasure. This will be the brightest Saturn is in our sky all year, and thus, one of the best times to view it. Look to the east around sunset, and watch Saturn climb high up into the sky throughout the night, before setting in the west in the wee hours of the morning. 

Keep it straight: Last month, a number of media outlets reported a viral story stating that since Jupiter was at opposition, its biggest and brightest moons could be seen with a set of binoculars. While technically true, this was a little misleading. You can almost always see Jupiter’s Galilean moons with a decent pair of binoculars – opposition or not. 

July 13: Close Approach of the Moon and Jupiter

The Moon and Jupiter will dance with each other in our evening skies on July 13, passing within 3 degrees of each other that night. Look to the southeast at around 8:30 p.m. and after to see the pair. 

This is once again a great month to view Jupiter, so be on the lookout for it every night. 

July 14: Pluto at Opposition

Not one, but two planets are at opposition to the sun this month, as the dwarf planet Pluto is opposite the sun and at its closest point to earth just five days after Saturn. Although not a naked eye event, if you have a medium grade telescope or good binoculars you should be able to find Pluto in the constellation Sagittarius. 

July 16: Close Approach of the Moon, Saturn, and Pluto

As if the Moon dancing with one planet was not enough, on the 16th our moon will have two partners to tango with. The trio will be so close together that they will all fit within the view field of a telescope or binoculars. The only caveat is that the moon will be full this night, and its light will overpower that of Saturn and Pluto. Nevertheless, Saturn will be viewable to the naked eye, and Pluto with binoculars or a telescope. All three will be in the constellation Sagittarius. 

In the News

Arkansas Gets Official International Dark Sky Park Recognition

Shot of the Milky Way by Tony Milligan at the Tyler Bend Campground Pavilion on the Buffalo River. This location is now within the International Dark Sky Park. 

In June, Arkansas’ Buffalo National River Park received official designation as an International Dark Sky Park. This is a first for the state of Arkansas and only the 71st location in the world with such acclaim. This establishes the Buffalo National River as even more of a tourism magnet, as it will be the only official Dark Sky Park for hundreds of miles in all directions. 

Map of the Buffalo National River Park

Arkansas Events

Shot of the Milky Way by Tony Milligan in Craighead County, over an abandoned sharecropper homestead.

July 26: Chesley Bonestell: A Brush With The Future

Time: 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Location: Ron Robinson Theater (100 River Market Avenue, Little Rock, AR 72201)

The Central Arkansas Astronomical Society, the Arkansas Space Grant Consortium, and the Central Arkansas Library System are putting on a special showing of the feature-length documentary: Chesley Bonestell: A Brush With The Future

The documentary encapsulates the imaginative artistry of Bonestell, whose paintings and illustrations of space set forth the inspiration for the American space program. His artwork came before we put men on the moon, had rovers on other worlds, and may, in fact, be part of the reason that the human race ever accomplished those things. He also worked on film classics like Citizen Kane and Destination Moon

This special airing of the documentary is a can’t miss for astronomy enthusiasts and history buffs, alike. Even better – admission is free, thanks to the wonderful sponsors. 

July 27: Wooly Hollow Public Star Party

Time: 8:30 p.m. – 11 p.m.

Location: Woolly Hollow State Park (82 Woolly Hollow Road, Greenbrier, AR 72058)

The Central Arkansas Astronomical Society’s (CAAS) monthly star party is on Saturday, July 27, this month. The event is open to the public and will last from 8:30 pm to 11 pm at Woolly Hollow State Park.

There will be telescopes available for use, and members of the Society will be there to serve as guides to the cosmos – assisting attendees in finding planets and other major celestial objects. 

According to CAAS, the Woolly Hollow park offers darker skies than Pinnacle Mountain, their other location often used for these monthly events. This means that more deep-sky objects will be viewable this month, such as nebulae and other galaxies. 

This a family friendly event, and a great opportunity for Arkansans of all ages to have an astronomical experience.

Central Arkansas Library System’s “Six Weeks of Star Wars”

July 11: Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

July 18: Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

July 25: Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Time: 7 p.m. (each night)

Location: Ron Robinson Theater (100 River Market Avenue, Little Rock, AR 72201)

Starting this month, the CALS Ron Robinson Theater will begin showing movies from the Star Wars franchise every Thursday night, with the month of July featuring Episodes I-III. Get started on Tatooine with Anakin on July 11, and finish out the prequels on July 25.

Tickets are $5 per person for each screening and can be purchased in advance on the CALS website.  

More to come on this next month, as August will start off with A New Hope, and continue on through the “originals” from there. 

Deep Space Date Night

Saturday, July 27: CAAS Star Party

The CAAS star party lines up perfectly with the Aquariids meteor shower this month, being just one day before the shower’s official peak. Heading out to Woolly Hollow on the 27th with your significant other will not only result in the excitement of one of CAAS’ star parties but also more than a handful of shooting stars to wish upon. 

Schedule an intimate dinner at Mike’s Place, in Conway, then head up HWY 65 to Woolly Hollow. 


The best stargazing results are always going to be under the darkest of skies. So, if you can, find a place as far away from city lights as possible when checking out July’s night sky. 

Also, if you have not already, download an app to your phone that helps you find celestial objects and constellations in real time. Sky Guide and Night Sky are both available for free and are extremely easy to use.

Happy Gazing!

Astrophotography courtesy of Tony Milligan. All photography rights, other than those provided for use by AY About You, belong to him.

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