Think you can’t find planets, identify bright stars, or find constellations you may want to give this a try. No star maps, you just need to find the Moon. The best times to look are 30 minutes after sunset or when the Moon in is the morning sky about an hour before sunrise.
This month (2013) the Moon will pass by the planets Saturn, Mars, Venus and Jupiter. The bright stars to see are; Regulus, Spica, Arcturus, Antares, Aldebaran, Altair, Vega, and Deneb. This month the constellations Cancer and Gemini go behind the Sun and Taurus reappears in the morning sky.
This is set up for Aurora, Colorado. Things will be slightly different depending on your location, but will still work for finding the planets and bright stars.
Start observing 60 minutes before sunrise
On July 1 a waning crescent moon is in the constellation Pisces the fishes. There are no noticeably bright stars are in Pisces. In the next few days the crescent moon will get thinner and thinner as it plunges toward the rising sun.
On July 2-3 the waning crescent moon is in the constellation Aries, the ram. There are no noticeably bright stars are in Aries.
On July 4-7 a thin crescent moon enters the constellation Taurus the bull. On July 4 the Moon will be above the star Aldebaran the brightest star in Taurus. On July 5 the Moon will be to the left of Aldebaran. On July 6 a very thin crescent moon will be right and between Mars (upper) and Jupiter (lower). Timing is critical (5:00am). The Moon and planets will be difficult to see in the glare of the rising Sun. On July 7 the Moon will be lost in the glare of a rising Sun.
On July 8 the Moon is new (no moon visible). The Moon rises and sets with the Sun. The Moon will start being visible in the early evening in the west within a few days. The new moon marks the transition of the Moon moving from the morning sky to the evening sky.
Observe 30 to 60 minutes after sunset
On July 10 just after sunset (8:35pm) a very thin crescent moon will appear just below and left of Venus in the glare of the setting Sun. Both will be low on the western horizon.
On July 11-12 the Moon will be in the constellation Leo the Lion. On Jul 11 the Moon will be left and below Regulus, the king star. The Moon will be further left of Regulus on July 12.
On July 13-16 the Moon will be in the constellation Virgo the Virgin. On July 13-14 the Saturn (fathest) and Spica (closest) will be to the left of the Moon. On July 14 the Moon will be directly below the bright star Arcturus in the constellation Bootes the herdsman. On the July 15 the Moon will be right next to Spica. It may take binoculars to see Spica. The Moon will actually pass in front of Spica in parts of Central and South America. The Moon is also at first quarter or half moon. When the Moon is at first quarter it is approximately in same place in space as the Earth and you were 3.5 hours ago. On July 16 the Moon will be just below and slightly left Saturn.
On July 17 the Moon moves to the constellation Libra the scales. There are no noticeably bright stars are in Libra. The Moon is on a line between Antares (left) and Saturn (right).
On July 18 the Moon is in the constellation Scorpius the scorpion. The bright star below the Moon is Antares. Antares is a red super giant, heart of the scorpion, and the rival of Mars (it looks red a lot like Mars). If Antares were the Sun the Earth and Mars would be orbiting inside of it.
On July 19 the Moon is in the constellation Ophiuchus (O fee U cus) the serpent-bearer and thirteenth constellation of the Zodiac . There are no bright stars in Ophiuchus. The bright star to the lower right of the Moon is Antares.
On July 20-21 the Moon moves to the constellation Sagittarius the archer. Sagittarius points the way to the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way. Most amateur astronomers call Sagittarius the teapot. The pattern of stars, albeit somewhat faint, looks more like a teapot than an archer.
On July 22 the moon is in the constellation Capricornus, the goat. There are no noticeably bright stars in Capricornus. On July 22 the Moon is full. Technically the Moon is full for only a moment in time. The full moon marks the transition of the Moon moving from the evening sky to the morning sky. For more detailed information about this month’s full moon including names go here. Above and to the left of the Moon are three bright stars that form a large triangle called the Summer Triangle. The three stars are Altair (lowest) in the constellation Aqulia the eagle and Vega (highest) in Lyra the harp and Deneb (below and to the left of Vega) in Cygnus the swan. Deneb is the dimmest of the three, but the farthest away at 1700 light years. It burns 70,000 times brighter than the sun.
Start observing 60 minutes before sunrise
On July 23-24 the Moon is still in the constellation Capricornus, the goat. Note the Summer Triangle is to the right of the setting full moon on July 23.
On July 25 the Moon is in the constellation Aquarius the water bearer. There are no noticeably bright stars are in Aquarius.
On July 26-28 the Moon is in the constellation Pisces the fishes where we started off the month. There are no noticeably bright stars are in Pisces.
On July 29-30 the Moon is in the constellation Aries, the ram. There are no noticeably bright stars are in Aries. On July 29 the Moon is at last quarter. At this phase the Moon is approximately in the same place in space the Earth and you will be in 3.5 hours.
On July 31 the Moon enters the constellation Taurus the bull. The bright star below and left of the Moon is Aldebaran the brightest star in Taurus. Look for Jupiter, Mars, and Mercury to the lower left.
Wishing you clear skies