Astronomy

July Skies

Evening Planets:
Jupiter rises in the SE during evening twilight. The planet gains a bit more brightness as it reaches opposition on 14 July. At opposition; Jupiter will be positioned in the sky at 180° away from the Sunset position or on the “opposite” side of the sky... Also, at opposition, Jupiter will be closest to the Earth for the year. After opposition, Jupiter will be rising earlier each evening. By the end of the month, Jupiter will be rising just after Sunset.
The Planet Saturn follows Jupiter across the sky. Saturn rises about ½ hour after Jupiter in the SE. Saturn stays to the left of Jupiter all month long. The planet gains a tiny bit more in brightness when it reaches opposition on 20 July. Both planets (Jupiter and Saturn) are rather low on the horizon during their nightly journey. This is unfortunate for planet watchers with telescopes because the planets low position in the sky will be affected by atmospheric effects.

Morning Planets:
Mars just misses being an evening planet. Mars rises in the East just after Midnight. The planet has a respectable gain in brightness during the month. Mars is in a star poor region of the sky. That means there are no bright stars to compete with Mars. Mars will continue to slowly brighten and slowly move towards a very favorable evening showing in October.
Venus has a very rapid climb out from the Dawn’s twilight. This is the fastest climb in altitude for Venus in 8 years. The planet rises in the NE before Dawn breaks. On 10 July, Venus will be at her brightest for this morning showing. This is a nice morning display by Venus. The planet will be in the morning sky for the rest of the year. During the first few days of July, the planet will be passing through the Hyades Star Cluster.
Mercury makes a short appearance in the morning twilight sky. The planet should be visible low in the NE around 17 July. The planet continues to gain altitude and on 22 July, reaches its highest position for this morning showing. On that date the planet will rise about 1 ½ hours before Sunrise. After the 22nd; the planet will quickly loose altitude and will be rising later each morning. By the end of the month, it may be difficult to spot the planet.

4-5 July Slight Penumbral Lunar Eclipse
5 July Moon, Jupiter and Saturn form an equilateral triangle, Dawn
11 July Venus next to bright star Aldebaran, Dawn
17 July Thin Crescent Moon left of Venus, Dawn
28-29 July South Delta Aquariids Meteor Shower

Venus “Passing Through” the Hyades Star Cluster:
From 1 July to 11 July, the Planet Venus will pass through the Hyades Star Cluster (C41). The Hyades Star Cluster can be easily seen with the unaided eye as a large “V” shape star cluster. Venus is actually passing in front of the star cluster although it looks like Venus is going through the star cluster. Venus passage through this star cluster will make for a pretty sight. Each morning at Dawn, the brilliant planet position will be shifted against the back ground stars. On 11 July, Venus will be just above the bright star Aldebaran. After that date, Venus will move out of the star cluster. Hand held binoculars will enhance the view.

Slight Penumbral Lunar Eclipse:
On the evening of the 4 – 5 July, the Moon will experience a faint penumbral eclipse. Here’s the time table of events:
Penumbral Eclipse Starts 11:07 pm 4 July
Greatest Eclipse 12:30 am 5 July
Penumbral Eclipse Ends 01:52 am 5 July
This Penumbral Eclipse is just a faint outer shadow of Earth covering about 1/3 of the top or the Northern part of the Moon. This faint shadow will be difficult to see. The best chance to see this difficult faint shadow is for sharp eyed individuals to try a view the event at 12:30 am. This is when the maximum extent of the faint shadow will cover the top part of the Moon. Hand held binoculars will certainly help in seeing this faint wispy shadow on the Moon.

South Delta Aquariids Meteor Shower:
On the evening of 28 -29 July, the South Delta Aquariids Meteor Shower will happen. The evening showing of this weak meteor shower will be spoiled by the Waxing Gibbous Moon. The morning showing of the meteor shower will do much better. After the Moon sets around 1 pm; this will leave the morning sky Moon free. About 10 meteors per hour are predicted in the Pre – Dawn skies. The weak South Delta Aquariids are known for occasionally produce a yellow colored meteor.

Gary T. Nowak
Vermont Astronomical Society