July 2017

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         Welcome to Observing With Webb, where the armchair astronomer figures out what they’re looking at, why it’s so cool, and what they should check out next.  Don’t forget to check out my Podbean page, YouTube Channel, and Twitter feed, or get my podcast feed on Stitcher.

The hot nights of July will get us out there in shorts and t-shirts, but later at night or earlier in the morning to witness some close encounters between the Moon and our planets


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

Planets you can see around Sunset – Jupiter (SW), Saturn (SE), Mercury (W)

Planets you can see throughout the night – Jupiter (SWàW), Saturn (SEàSW)

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


Mercury – Visible for a little bit right at sunset throughout the month, except the first week. Look West right at sunset, and try to find a bright dot very low on the horizon.

Venus – Rises around 4am.  Bright and visible about 20˚ high in East before sunrise all month.

Mars – Not visible in June. On the opposite side of the Sun.

Saturn – Look SE after sunset and find the bright light above and between Scorpius and Sagittarius. It will move toward the South, then the West, setting around 4am.

Jupiter – After sunset, look SW about a halfway up the sky and find the brightest point of light in that area.  It’ll move toward the West and set around 12:30am. You could also find Jupiter by finding the Big Dipper’s handle, following that arc to Arcturus, then speeding on to Spica, and finding brighter Jupiter to the right of Spica.



First Quarter Moon – 1st (Visible until midnight)

1stClose Encounter – Moon, Jupiter – Look SW after sunset to see the Moon 8˚ to the left of Jupiter.  Get out before 12:30am that night (morning of the 2nd), otherwise they will be set. Bright Spica is nearby as well, below the Moon

Full Moon – 9th (Visible all night)

6thClose Encounter – Moon, Saturn – Find the almost Full Moon and you’ll see Saturn just 2˚ below it.  They will move West throughout the night and set just before 4am.

Last Quarter Moon – 16th (Visible from midnight into the morning)

20thClose Encounter – Moon, Venus – Get up after 3:30am but before sunrise (5:52am) and find a very thin crescent Moon in the East with Venus just 3˚ up and to the left.

New Moon – 23rd (darkest skies)

24th- 25thClose Encounter – Moon, Mercury – Look W after sunset on the 24th to see the Moon 4˚ down and to the right of Mercury.  On the next night, the Moon should be about 8˚ up and to the left of Mercury.  This will likely be fairly difficult, given the brightness of twilight and how quickly they set, being so low on the horizon.  Perhaps finding the Moon first will be easier, then finding Mercury.

28thClose Encounter – Moon, Jupiter – Look SW after sunset to see the Moon 2˚ directly above Jupiter.  Get out before 11:00pm that night when they set. Bright Spica is off to the left as well.

First Quarter Moon – 30th (Visible until midnight)


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.

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