Looking Up July 2012

Sun: By mid-July, the sun rises just before 6 am EDT, and sets about 8:30 pm EDT.

Moon phases: Full on July 3rd; third quarter on the 11th; new moon on the 19th; first quarter the 26th. On July 15, folks in Europe, northern Africa, and the Middle East will be able to view the Moon as it occults (covers) Jupiter; alas, the event will be over before Moon-rise in Maryland.

Evening Sky: Mars and Saturn are still high in the sky towards the south-west, and still in the constellation Virgo not too far from the bright star Spica. As the month progresses, these two planets appear to move closer together in the sky, and by the end of the month they will be only 8 degrees apart. Saturn reaches quadrature on the 15th, and that illumination angle gives an especially interesting view of the planet in telescopes. Mercury is quickly fading from view as it moves towards inferior conjunction on July 28.

Pre-dawn Sky: For those who are out before dawn, the morning sky holds a treat. Around 5 am EDT, the Pleiades star cluster, Jupiter, Venus, and the bright star Aldebaran form a line that stretches above the Eastern horizon. Venus is lowest in the sky, and the brightest of the set. As the month progresses, the planets will obviously move relative to each other, and relative to the Pleiades and Aldebaran. On July 13 through 16, the waning crescent Moon glides through the formation. The Moon will appear a little thinner and a little lower in the sky each morning. The 16th will probably be the last day it will be relatively easy to find, low above the eastern horizon.

That’s all for this month, and remember, Keep Looking Up! (Jack Horkhemimer, The Star Gazer)

Helen Hart, 1 July 2012; references: Sky and Telescope July issue; the Astronomical Calendar; Starry Night planetarium program; USNO Astronomical Data Services.


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