To see a video of this information, go to my YouTube Channel
See all 5 visible planets after sunset, watch some rare close encounters, and get up early (or stay up late) for a great annual meteor shower that could be even better this year.
PLANETS...well,the ones visible with your naked eye
Planets you can see around Sunset – Jupiter(W), Venus (W), Mercury (W – beginning of the month), Mars & Saturn (S→SW)
Planets you can see throughout the night – None
Planets you can see in the Morning – None
Mercury, Venus, Jupiter – These three form a nice line on the 1st,with bright Venus low in the west after sunset, bright Jupiter 25˚ to the left and up, with Mercury very dim, in between the two, but closer to Venus. By the 10th, Jupiter has crept closer to Venus, and Mercury is still dim, but almost exactly in the middle. After this point, Mercury is very challenging to see without optical aid, but the three planets form a nice triangle that changes as Jupiter gets closer and closer to Venus, reaching the closest I’ve ever seen them (0.1˚) on the 27th. You’ll actually be able to see them together in a telescope!
Mars & Saturn – Look south after sunset and bring a sky map of Scorpius. Saturn and Mars start about11˚ apart, with Saturn to the left. Throughout the month, Saturn moves past Saturn, as close as 4˚ on 23rd, and ends the month 5˚ to the right and above Mars. Both are visible until about 11:30pm.
New Moon – 2nd (darkest skies)
4th – Close Encounter – Moon, Mercury – If you’re good and can see the very thin crescent Moon low on the horizon, Mercury will be only about 1˚ above it.
5th – Close Encounter – Moon & Jupiter – Jupiter and a nice crescent Moon are only about 2˚ apart in the west after sunset and set in the West around 9:30pm.
First Quarter Moon – 10th(Visible until midnight)
11th – 12th – Close Encounter – Moon, Mars, Saturn –Look to the south after sunset on the 11th, and you’ll see The Moon,Mars, and Saturn making a nearly equilateral triangle in the sky. This is visible until around midnight, moving to the west. Saturn will be down and to the left of the Moon, and Mars will be the reddish light directly below the Moon. Antares, the brightest star in Scorpius, is also around, below Saturn and to the left of Mars, opposite the Moon. The next night,the 12th, the Moon will have moved to the left of Saturn, making a wonderful line of the Moon, Saturn, and Mars.
12th – 13th – Perseid Meteor Shower – This might be a great year for the Perseids. Why? The waxing Gibbous Moon is in the way only until 1am, just in time for the best meteor watching time (albeit until5am), and astrophysicists are saying the normal count of 60-90 meteors per hour will probably be higher this year, with a chance of being double, due to perturbations from Jupiter. It looks like that in dark skies there will be about 60 meteors per hour. Remember,you’re seeing the bits of dust left over from Comet Swift-Tuttle burning up as they crash into the atmosphere at 37 miles per second.
Some advice for watching:
Find a dark location and lie down in a reclining chair or swimming pool floaty
Look toward Perseus (In the NE, rises throughout the night until sunrise where it will be almost directly above.) That is where the radiant is -where the meteors will appear to be coming from. You’ll see more after 1am,when the Moon sets, but the brightest ones can still be seen after sunset.
The strategy to observe this one is to start watching in the evening and continue until daylight. The shower is usually technically active from mid-July to late August, so you may see some Perseids in the days leading up to and after the peak as well.
Check the weather to see if the skies will be clear
Adapt your eyes to the dark by staying away from light sources or using a red light if you need to look at a star chart or not trip over something.
Or find out if your local astronomy club or museum is holding a viewing party.
Full Moon – 18th (Visible all night)
23rd & 24th – Close Encounter – Mars, Saturn, Antares – Look SSW after sunset, and you’ll see Saturn overtake Mars in its long term travels,and in the process make beautiful vertical line with Mars and Antares. Visible until about 11pm.
Last Quarter Moon – 24th (Visible from midnight into the morning)
27th – Close Encounter – Venus, Jupiter – Look W after sunset, and you might be able to make out bright Venus and Jupiter only 0.1˚ apart. This is close enough that if you have a telescope, you’ll be able to see both planets in the eyepiece at the same time,even with good magnification. I do not believe I have seen two planets this close before.
CONSTELLATIONS... (see sky map link at the bottom for a Star Map for this month – or ask Mr. Webb) Look straight up and you'll see...
Just after Sunset(around 8:30pm) –Hercules. Hercules has an Extra Challenge! Look for M13, the Hercules Cluster in between two of Hercules’ “keystone” stars. It known as the best globular cluster in the northern skies. It will be a fuzzy spot in binoculars and will be even cooler through a telescope
Extra Challenge! Use binoculars (or even a telescope)and a star chart to scan through the southern constellation of Sagittarius. There are at least 7 easily visible clusters and nebulas up and to the right of the “teapot” of Sagittarius.
Midnight – Lyra, Cygnus, Aquila (a little to the south) – These are the Summer constellations, and since they are visible right above us around midnight (and to the east after sunset), it’s now summer! More details below in the“General Constellation Finding Tips”
Early Morning – Pegasus, Andromeda Extra Challenge! Using your naked eye (dark-adapted and in a dark area) or binoculars under normal conditions and a star chart, try finding our neighboring Andromeda Galaxy. It’ll be a faint, but bigger, fuzzy in the constellation Andromeda
Summer Constellations: Lyra, Cygnus,Aquila, Delphinus
Look to the east after sunset or straight up around midnight and you’ll be able to see Lyra (the Harp), Cygnus (the Swan), Aquila (the Eagle), (and Delphinus the Dolphin.) These three constellations have the three brightest stars of the summer constellations (Vega, Deneb, Altair – respectively.) Those bright stars create the summer triangle. Off to the east of this is the small but beautiful constellation of Delphinus.
Spring Constellations: Bootes, Virgo, Leo, Corona Borealis, Hercules.
First find the Big Dipper in the North (a North Circumpolar Asterism that never sets)and look at the handle. Starting at the star closest to the “cup” part, follow the rest of the stars in the handle and follow the arc to Arcturus. Arcturus is the brightest star in Bootes the Shepherd. Some say he looks more like a kite, others say more like an ice cream cone.
Then,following the same “arc”, speed on to Spica. Spica is the brightest star in Virgo. Virgo’s a dimmer constellation, so you’ll be rewarded when you find her.
To the left of Bootes is Corona Borealis. This is a small collection of stars that make a crown, cup, or U shape in the sky.
To the left of Corona Borealis is the great constellation of Hercules. Hercules is the Hero of the sky and has a central “keystone” asterism, in which lies M13, the Hercules Cluster.
Lastly,Leo is a constellation consisting of a backward question mark (or sickle) and a right triangle to the left. Use the two Big Dipper “cup” stars that are in the middle of the Big Dipper and follow the line they make to the bright star Regulus, the brightest star in Leo.
Use a sky map from www.skymaps.com to help you out.