This is the Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, July 1st and 2nd written by Joe Slomka.
The Sun sets at 8:37 PM; night falls at 10:53. Dawn breaks at 3:06 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 5:21.
The Moon sets at 7:37 PM, well before sunset. The 1% illuminated Moon will be difficult to spot, because of the setting Sun’s glare. Also, the observer should be careful not to accidently look at the Sun. Tuesday, at 3 PM, the Moon turns officially “New”. New Moons present the possibility for eclipses of the Sun. This New Moon does that. A Total Solar Eclipse will be visible to peoples of South America and the South Pacific. Wednesday, early sky watchers can try to see a one-day-old Moon rising at 6:08 AM; but again, it is shrouded in the rising Sun’s glare. An interesting event happens this month. Since the period between New Moons is 29.5 days, it is sort of rare for a month to have two New Moons – on July 2nd and 31st.
Mars and Saturn continue to dominate the evening sky with their retrograde paths. Jupiter still blazes in Ophiuchus with minus 2nd magnitude and 18ºlow in the eastern sky. It is best observed at 11:19 PM. Telescopic observers can see the Great Red Spot (a giant storm) at 11:46 PM on Monday. Jupiter sets at 3:52 AM. Saturn rises in Sagittarius at 8:57 PM, shines with zero magnitude and remains up all night. It is best at 1:32 AM when it is 24º high
Mars occupies Cancer, in the West, appearing 98% lit and glowing with 1st magnitude. However, it is only 6º high and sets at 9:54 PM. Mercury, to Mars’ lower left, shares Cancer, appears 25% lit and also glows at 1st magnitude. It sets at 9:51 PM. Note that Mars and Mercury are seen lower daily and will soon disappear.
Dwarf Planet Ceres is located in Scorpius and shines with 7th magnitude. It appears as a tiny dot 27º high in the southeast, near the star Graffias. It is best seen at 10:21 PM. Finder charts are available from various astronomy websites. 1Ceres sets at 3:07 AM.
Neptune rises in Aquarius at 11:49 PM, appearing 2 arc-seconds in size and shimmering with 8th magnitude. At Dawn, it lies 31º high. Uranus, in Aries, joins the scene at 1:38 AM, appearing 3 arc-seconds in size and glimmering with 5th magnitude. Early-bird observers can use finder charts before the sky becomes too bright.
The Fourth of July is famous for fireworks. In the year 1054 Nature staged her own fireworks show. Chinese astronomers saw a new star in Taurus. Eyewitness accounts said it “shone like a comet.” The “guest star” flashed in daylight for 23 days and was visible nightly for a year and a half. Many textbooks remark that no one in Europe or the Mideast recorded seeing it. However, North American Natives noticed it and made rock carvings depicting it. Charles Messier made it the first in his list of false comet objects. We now know the star explosion blazed with the brightness of 500 million suns and produced a pulsar, a residue neutron star that spins rapidly and emits regular radio pulses.