July, the month to observe five members of our Solar Family
~ Jupiter at dawn in the eastern sky ~
~ Mercury re-emerges as Evening Star in mid-July,
moving toward maximum elongation (and visibility) in early August ~
~ Venus in the western evening sky, for a couple of hours after sunset ~
~ Mars and Saturn in the North-West at dusk and until the early part of the night ~
~ With a pair of good binoculars we could even spot far away
Uranus, close to Jupiter in the eastern sky before sunrise ~
MERCURY reached its Superior Conjunction with the Sun on June 28,and will re-emerge as an Evening Star in mid July, about thirty minutes after sunset. Southern observers are favoured this month, but to find Mercury you will also need an unobstructed horizon, and perhaps a pair of good binoculars. Due to his low altitude and constant closeness to the horizon Mercury appears yellow reddish in colour, as the Sun when on the horizon. Mercury also tends to blink more than other planets, so that he can be easily taken for a star. Between July 12 and 14 the waxing Crescent Moon and Venus will appear close to Mercury in the evening sky, toward North-West, an opportunity to spot this elusive planet in the twilight of the day. On July 26 and 27 Mercury will be seen very close to Regulus, the alpha star of Leo constellation (find snapshots in the July Calendar of Observable Events, below).
Mercury will reach its maximum elongation (time of greatest visibility) on August 7, 2010.
With a magnitude of -4.1, Venus is still the brightest planet, easily observed looking toward the west in the evening. Finding Venus can also help us to spot other members of our solar family, as well as constellations and stars.
As evening deepens and Venus appears, the stars Castor and Pollux of Constellation Gemini will be setting low on the horizon. In line, up from brilliant Venus, is the alpha star of Leo, Regulus (that Venus will conjunct on 10/11 July), then reddish Mars, followed by golden Saturn and finally by Spica, the brightest star of Virgo Constellation. After the 11 July New Moon the waxing Moon will join the spectacle for about a week, becoming conjunct Venus on the 15, Mars and Saturn between the 16 and 17, and Spica on the 18 (find snapshots in the July Calendar of Observable Events, below)
The Evening Star’s incarnation of Venus represents a collective opportunity to become more self-reflective, acknowledging our contribution to any relationship issues we may be experiencing. The Goddess of Love is looking deeper into our hearts and show us the way to a less self-centred and more aware kind of loving.
You can spot Mars in the evening in the North-West, relatively low above the horizon, reddish in colour, rising in daylight and setting around 9, 9.30 pm, depending on your view. It will be easily spotted on July 16 when it will be close to the waxing Moon (find snapshots in the July Calendar of Observable Events, below).
JUPITER, after emerging from the glare of the Sun in March, is now a very bright star in the East (magnitude – 2.6), rising just before midnight at the start of July and around 10 pm at the end of the month.
Jupiter will become brighter and brighter as the year advances, reaching its greatest brilliance in its whole 11.8 years cycle just in time for the Libra Equinox 2010 (September 21). This is due to the fact the giant planet will reach its perihelion, closest position in relation to the Sun, in March 2011.
There is a companion to Jupiter in the pre-dawn sky, though invisible, so you will need a good pair of binoculars to spot it, 0.4 degrees above Jupiter. It is giant Uranus, spinning at right angle to everyone else, a bluish/green star-like object. Jupiter is -2.6 magnitude and Uranus at +5.8, dim but still the brightest object in the vicinity of Jupiter.
Jupiter and Uranus are conjunct for the first time in nearly 14 years on June 9, and they are nearly as bright as they can be, their opposition from the Sun getting closer. It will be exact on September 22, just as the Sun prepares to enter Tropical Libra (Spring-Autumn Equinox), opposing them only five hours apart from each other. Jupiter and Uranus meet cyclically (synodic cycle) every 13.7 years. This time they are playing a prolonged duet, though, meeting twice in 2010 (June 9 and September 22) and a third time on January 2, 2011. This is a rarer opportunity for the energies of these planets to blend for a sustained period, so exerting a greater overall influence over the affairs of the whole year. The last time Jupiter and Uranus met three times was in 1983, 27 years ago.
Animation of the triple conjunction of Jupiter-Uranus in 2010/11, from Martin J.Powell astronomical site, can be found HERE.
The ringed planet is now transiting between the Constellations of Leo and Virgo. It will shine at + 1.1 magnitude during the month. Like Mars, Saturn also is becoming dimmer this month, around +1 magnitude, moving away from the Earth at an angle that will cause its rings to become thinner, reflecting less sunlight.
Mars will be conjunct Saturn on July 31 and in early August Venus will also join them in the evening sky (find snapshots in the July Calendar of Observable Events, below).
For an in-depth reading of the major transits of Saturn and others, for the present and near future, please visit 2010 Forecast page.
JULY CALENDAR OF OBSERVABLE EVENTS
Information and pictures to make you better acquainted with your southern night sky
The different lighting of some of the pictures is due to the time the snapshots of the Planetarium were taken.
JULY 4-5: the Moon can be observed very close to Jupiter (and invisible Uranus) between the Constellations of Cetus (the Whale), Pegasus (the Winged Horse) and the Southern Fish of Pisces. The snapshot was taken on July 4, looking toward the East, around 1.30 am. The couple will remain visible well into daylight.
On JULY 5 the Moon will still be fairly close to Jupiter and her distance from him will tell you something about her daily motion and West-East direction.
JULY 8: The Waning Balsamic Moon (around 45 degrees behind the Sun) can be observed close to the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters.
The Moon’s brightness may absorb the light of the fainter stars in the cluster, but the brightest should remain visible and clear, especially through binoculars.
At this phase the Moon will hopefully show the so-called Earthshine, a phantom image of the past or future (?) Full Moon.
This sky scape was taken early in the morning, around 5.30, looking toward the North-East.
JULY 10/11: these nights we can observe bright Venus conjunct the alpha star of Leo Constellation, Regulus. The sky scape below was taken on July 9, around 6.30 pm, looking toward the North-West.
JULY 13: the tiny Crescent Moon is conjunct Mercury in the dusk twilight, and in line with them, looking up, are Venus, and appearing as it gets darker, also Mars and Saturn.
The snapshot of this event was taken looking North-West, around 5.30 pm.
JULY 15: the waxing Crescent Moon can be observed close to Venus and moving toward Mars, Saturn and Spica, around 6.30 pm, looking toward the North-West.
JULY 16: The waxing Moon will be visibly conjunct Mars and Saturn on July 16. The sky scape below was taken on the 16, around 6.30 pm, looking toward the North-West.
JULY 18: Tonight we can observe the First Quarter Moon conjunct Spica, the alpha star of Constellation Virgo.
This snapshot was taken at around 6.30 pm, looking toward the North-West.
JULY 21: the waxing Moon can be seen very close to Antares, the brilliant alpha star of Scorpio Constellation. The conjunction will become visible as the sky darkens.
The snapshot below was taken around 6 pm, looking toward the east.
JULY 27: Mercury, very low on the western horizon, is perfectly conjunct the alpha star of constellation Leo, Regulus. Above, much brighter than Mercury, Venus, Mars and Saturn are getting closer to each other (they will be at their closest, as a group, on August 7).
This snapshot was taken at about 6.30 pm, looking West, with a very low horizon, like that of a boat in the middle of the ocean.
JULY 31: Soon after entering the tropical Sign of Libra Mars will conjunct Saturn. Venus is close by, due to become conjunct Saturn on August 9 and Mars on August 21.
The three can be seen against the backdrop of Virgo Constellation. This snapshot was taken at around 6.15 pm, looking toward the North-West.
For more snapshots of observable astronomical events in 2010, please CLICK HERE.
All the Sky Snapshots have been generated using Stellarium, a wonderful Planetarium freeware software.
Information for the Sky Events has been gathered from these web sites: