July 2014

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Not much in the way of events this month, but Mars gets close to the Moon and Spica, and Saturn gets close to the Moon.


PLANETS...well, the ones visible with your naked eye

Planets you can see around Sunset – Mars (SW), Saturn (S)

Planets you can see throughout the night – Saturn (SàW)

Planets you can see in the Morning – Venus (E), Mercury (E)


Mercury – Hard to see, but rises in the East about 30 minutes after Venus (around 5am) when the sky is already brightening up.


Venus Venus will be very bright again this month in the morning toward the East.  It rises pretty much after 4:30am and is about 20˚ above the horizon by sunrise. Closest to the Moon on the 24th. 


Mars – Look in the SW after sunset or in the West before midnight and look for the visibly red “star”.  It’s hanging out right around Virgo’s brightest star Spica this month.  VERY close to the Moon on the 5th (see events for more details) 


Jupiter – Not really worth looking for this month – too close to the Sun.


Saturn – Look in the Southwest after sunset for the bright point that is Saturn, which moves to the west and sets around 1am. VERY close to the Moon on the 7th (see events for details). Try taking out your binoculars or telescope to find the rings at its side. 



First Quarter Moon – 5th (Visible until midnight)


5thClose EncounterMars, Moon – Check out the First Quarter Moon in the Southwest.  Mars will be about 1˚ above it and very red.  In fact, if you’re in Hawaii at dusk, you can watch the Moon pass in front of Mars.


7thClose Encounter – Moon, Saturn – Look to the S after sunset and you can see a Gibbous Moon, with Saturn about 1˚ up and to the left of it. If you live in the southernmost parts of South America, you can actually watch the Moon occult or pass in front of Saturn!


Full Moon – 12th (Visible all night)


13thClose Encounter – Mars, Spica – Mars will be just about 1˚ above Spica in the Southwest


Last Quarter Moon – 18th (Visible from midnight into the morning)


24thClose Encounter – Moon, Venus – Before sunrise, look to the East and find a thin crescent Moon. Venus will be about 5˚ to the left of the Moon. 


New Moon – 26th (darkest skies)



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) – Bootes, Corona Borealis, and Hercules.  Bootes is known as the shepherd, kite, or ice cream cone.  You can follow the arc of the Big Dipper’s handle to get to its brightest star Arcturus.   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

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 west after sunrise), it’s now summer!  More details below in the “General Constellation Finding Tips”  Extra Challenge! Look for M57, the Ring Nebula in between two of Lyra’s stars.  It is 2,300 light years away, which means we’re seeing what it looked like 2,300 years ago.  The shell that you see is the remnants of the central star that blew up some 20,000 years ago.  It has a donut-like appearance through a telescope.  It’ll be easy to find, but tough to see in binoculars, so get the scope out.

Early Morning – Pegasus, 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.