The moon begins this month four days from full phase. And, that is also a lunar eclipse, since it’s 14 days after the solar eclipse last month. Jupiter and Saturn snuggle up close on the following days, both giant planets within two degrees of the moon July 5 and 6, respectively. By July 11, Mars is also in the picture, also two degrees from Luna, and an early morning apparition. Neptune is in the frame, too, a little to the west of Mars.
July14, Uranus meets up with the crescent moon, a little to the west of the Pleiades, while looking straight east. July 17, Venus, now the Morning Star, helps locate the thin crescent moon, both directly below the Pleiades. This is the time for stargazing, when the evenings are getting dark earlier, the moon is new and Saturn is at opposition. With a clear view to the horizon July 19, you can see from west to east, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Mars, Uranus, Venus, the moon, and Mercury. What a line up!
The eclipse mentioned above is of the penumbral kind, so not much to see. The moon just barely skims into Earth’s shadow, so any change in brightness of the moon’s northern limb will be just barely noticeable.
Mercury is in front of the sun until mid-month, reaching greatest elongation west July 22. Watch for the spectacular planetary line up July 19 and the moon joining up with the speedy Mercury in the eastern morning sky.
Venus, the Morning Star, rises more than two hours before the sun in the eastern sky. The bright planet achieves GIE (greatest illuminated extent) July 10; even though still at crescent phase, the number of square degrees is greatest and thus at GIE.
Mars is joined by the moon July 11, as the red planet gets nearer and nearer. It will be slightly less than half the distance from Earth to the sun, closer than it will be for the next 15 years, when it reaches opposition in October.
Jupiter will be at opposition July 15, hugging the horizon along with Saturn. The two planets will be side by side for the rest of the year. Watch for the nearby moon July 5.
Saturn rises slightly after Jupiter around 11 p.m., the two of them cruising across the night sky until dawn. The moon is two degrees south of the Ringed Planet July 6.
Uranus is visible in the night sky among the stars of Aries, the Ram. July 14, the crescent moon is four degrees south of the gas planet.
Neptune crosses the sky among the stars of Aquarius, just a little west of Mars.
The minor planet Pallas is at opposition July 12.
The southern Delta Aquariid meteor shower peaks in the early morning of July 27.
James Edgar has had an interest in the night sky all his life. He joined The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada in 2000, was national president for two terms, is now the editor of the Observer’s Handbook, and production manager of the bi-monthly RASC Journal. The IAU named asteroid 1995 XC5 “(22421) Jamesedgar” in his honour.