Did you know you can check out telescopes at the Library?

Orion StarBlast 4.5" TelescopeThanks to a generous donation from the Louisville Astronomical Society, LFPL is excited to offer telescopes for check out at the Southwest and South Central Regional libraries. The lending period is for one week and is limited to Louisville Free Public Library cardholders in good standing, 18 years or older. Signing a Telescope User Agreement at the time of checkout is required. Go to the Library Catalog to reserve one today.

For more information on the telescope lending program, visit:

July in the Sky
By Frank Nelson, Sidewalk Astronomy Coordinator for the Louisville Astronomical Society.

Welcome to summer! We are finally getting a few days of clear skies as I write this, the temperatures are warming up, and the days are slowly growing shorter. Last month, we talked about observing Jupiter. Jupiter is still the brightest object in the night sky other than the moon; it hugs the southern horizon as the night progresses. Look directly opposite the sun as it sets, Jupiter will be hard to miss.

This month, we get to talk about one of the best objects to view in a telescope: SATURN! In binoculars, Saturn will look non-round. In a 3” or larger telescope, however, the rings are visible in just about any eyepiece! Saturn has seasons, just like the earth does and for the same reason; Saturn is tilted on its axis relative to the plane of its orbit. This means that on the Saturn equivalent of our solstice the rings are opened up as wide as they can be. Currently, Saturn’s rings are tilted toward us as far as they ever get, which makes viewing them relatively easy. So, let’s go find Saturn in the sky and talk about what to look for.

As night falls, find Jupiter. It is the brightest ‘star’ in the sky and does not twinkle. Jupiter was directly opposite the sun the first week of June, Saturn will be directly opposite the sun on July 10. Wait about an hour after sunset, find Jupiter and look toward the eastern horizon, directly opposite where the sun just set, and you should see a bright, white, non-blinking ‘star.’ Saturn and Jupiter are roughly 20° apart from each other; this is two fists help up at arm’s length. Saturn will be the brightest star in this part of the sky. Aim a telescope or binoculars at a point of light; if you see an oval or a ball with a ring around it? You found Saturn!

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The obvious thing to see is the ring system. The rings have a dark break in them called the Cassini Division. This gives the impression that there are two rings, not just one. On a good night, you will be able to increase the magnification of your telescope and see the break all the way around the rings, but most nights you will only see the break part way around the rings. On the planet itself, if the air is still, you will notice that there are very faint bands much like Jupiter’s but more muted and harder to see. Off to the side of Saturn will be a very distinctly orange “star” that is visible even in binoculars. This is Titan, the second largest moon in the solar system and the only one with an atmosphere. Titan takes a week to go around the planet, notice night by night that its position changes relative to the planet and rings. Finally, in a 6” or larger telescope, you may be able to see up to five more tiny points of light which will move night-by-night. These are the other major moons of Saturn. To figure which moons are which, look at the Sky and Telescope tool below. There are also several phone apps that will show the current locations of each of the major moons.

While looking at Saturn and Jupiter, notice how far apart they are. Look at the stars around each planet. As summer turns into fall, these tow bright lights will start to get closer and closer together. Next year, Jupiter and Saturn will meet in a Grand Conjunction, something only seen every 20 years.

Finally, when you get bored looking at Jupiter and Saturn, examine the patch of sky between the two. This area of sky is the Summer Milky Way. If you get out of the city, say to Bernheim Forest, the Parklands, or one of our public events this month at our dark-sky observatory, you will be able to see the faint glow of the center of our galaxy between the two giant planets. Follow this glow to directly overhead and you will wee three bright stars that make up the Summer Triangle. Take your telescope or binoculars and explore this area. Next month, we will go on a guided tour of some of my favorite summer targets. For now, just enjoy the warm nights and hope for clear skies!

For star charts, planet positions and telescope targets for the month of July, please visit the Astro League web site.

For viewing tips and the location of Saturn’s moons, use this web tool.

Last Updated: 06/28/2019