Skywatch Line for Monday July 26th and Tuesday July 27th, 2021

This is the Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday July 26th, and 27th, written by Joe Slomka.

The Sun sets at 8:22 PM; night falls at 10:22. Dawn begins at 3:42 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 5:42.

Monday, the Moon, in Aquarius, appears about 31 arc-minutes in size and appears 90% illuminated; it sets at 10:24 PM. Tuesday, it moves into Cetus, rising at 9:27 AM, slightly thinner and sets at 10:48 PM.

Venus and Mars, in Leo, are still visible, but low in the West. First magnitude Mars sets at 9:28 PM, but only 5° above the horizon. Venus, blazing with minus 3rd magnitude, 12 arc-seconds in size, appears about 7 arc-seconds above and to Mars’ upper left. Venus sets at 9:48 PM. Both may require an unobstructed view and binoculars or telescope.

While Mars and Jupiter are setting, Saturn, in Capricornus, rises in the East at 8:39, shines with zero magnitude and is a moderate 18 arc-seconds. Jupiter, in Aquarius, rises at 9:33 PM and appears large with 48 arc-seconds. By 11 PM, both join the Moon and are high enough for details. Saturn is a favorite for first time observers. The ring system never fails to amaze. Telescopic sky watchers can see the Great Red Spot, a giant storm on Jupiter, at 3:23 AM on Tuesday and witness the Jovian Moon Io’s march across the face of Jupiter from 9:37 PM until 12:29 AM on Wednesday.

Neptune shares Aquarius with Jupiter, rising at 10:25 PM, 7th magnitude and a small 2 arc-seconds; by Midnight it is 16° high and 6° above the Moon. Uranus is last, in Aries, rising at 12:26 AM, fifth magnitude, 4 arc-seconds and 17° high at 2 AM.

The Southern Delta Aquariid Meteor Shower peaks on July 29th, but actually happens all week. However, the brilliant Moon will wash out most meteors; only the brightest will be visible.

As night falls, Scorpius lies due South and obvious to even the casual sky watcher. Scorpius is one of the oldest constellations; its origins lie in the sands of Babylon. Star names betray its history. Sumerians and Babylonians gave us the Zodiac as we know it, and named them in their languages. When the Greeks occupied the Middle East, they imposed their own names – as did the later Romans. Conquering Arabs also renamed the constellations and stars. Crusaders, who came across Arabic scientific documents, republished all this knowledge, forgotten during the Dark Ages.

Antares is the common name for the red star that marks the Scorpion’s heart. The word Antares means “rival of Ares,” the Greek word for the Roman god – Mars. Indeed, the two do look alike. Of course, Antares is a giant star, while Mars is a small planet. The two stars on either side of Antares were called “Al Niyat,” Arabic for “the Arteries.” Beta, Delta and Nu, in the head, were called Graffias, Dschubba and Jabbah. The stinger’s stars are Shaula and Lesath – again Arabic names. Theta, the star that bends upward to form the tail is called by two Sumerian names: Girtab and Sargas.

Skywatch Line for Friday, July 23, through Sunday, July 25, 2021

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, July 23, through Sunday, July 25, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, Sun rises at 5:38am and sets at 8:25pm; Moon sets at 4:37am and rises at 8:39pm. The Moon will reach its full phase on Friday at 10:37pm. July full Moon is often called the Buck Moon, Hay Moon or Thunder Moon. That’s because at this time of year buck deer begin to grow velvety antlers and farmers load hay in their barns amid the summer season’s frequent thunder showers. The Moon is full when it is opposite the Sun in the sky. Therefore, full Moon rises in the east as the Sun is setting and sets in the west at sunrise.

On Friday, look for Saturn about a fist at arm’s length to Moon’s left. By dawn on Saturday, they shift to the southwest and twist around so that Saturn is above the Moon. In the east after dark Saturn shines upper right of the Moon, and Jupiter shines farther to the Moon’s left. By dawn this scene of action shifts to the southwest and the pattern rotates clockwise.

On Saturday, see both Regulus and Mars well down to Venus’s lower right, by 4° and 7° respectively. Venus, at magnitude –3.9, continues to shine low in the west during twilight. Lower left of it is tiny Mars, 200 times fainter at magnitude +1.8. Mars gets lower every day. Both planets set before twilight ends. Upper left of Venus you’ll find Regulus moving closer to Venus day by day. It’s brighter than Mars by a half magnitude.

Saturn, at magnitude +0.2 in constellation Capricornus, and Jupiter, at magnitude –2.8 in constellation Aquarius, rise in the east-southeast in twilight. Jupiter rises an hour after Saturn. Saturn sits 20° to Jupiter’s upper right. They’re highest in the south, at their telescopic best, around 2am. They’ll reach opposition next month, so they’re already about as close and big as they’ll get.

Uranus, at magnitude 5.8 in constellation Aries, is well placed in the east before dawn begins.

Neptune, at magnitude 7.8 in constellation Aquarius 22° east of Jupiter, is higher in the south-southeast before dawn begins.

As summer progresses, bright Arcturus moves down the western side of the evening sky. Its pale ginger-ale tint helps identify it. Off to Arcturus’s right in the northwest, the Big Dipper scoops to the right.

Skywatch Line for Wednesday, July 21 and Thursday, July 22, 2021

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Wednesday, July 21 and Thursday, July 22, written by Alan French.

The Sun now sets at 8:34 p.m. and rises at 5:35 a.m. The days are slowly growing shorter.

A waxing gibbous Moon now brightens the night sky. A 94% illuminated Moon will rise at 6:49 P.M. Wednesday. It will be 98% in sunlight when it rises at 7:54 Thursday, appearing essentially full. The Moon will reach full Friday night.

There have been many reports of a reddish Moon and Sun due to smoke from the western forest fires. A friend in Pennsylvania, where the skies were clear of clouds Tuesday night, reported that only the Moon and Vega were visible in his smoke polluted night sky. Our recent rains may have cleared some of the smoke, but watch the Moon rise for signs of smoke over our region. If the heavy smoke persists or is renewed, some coloration may be visible when the Moon is high in the sky.

If you look high in the east, almost overhead, at 10:00 P.M. you’ll find bright Vega, the fifth brightest star in the night sky and the brightest star in the small constellation, Lyra, the Lyre. Like many bright stars, Vega is bright because it is a close neighbor, lying just over 25 light years away from us. Its light, traveling at 300,000 kilometers per second (186,000 miles per second) took over 25 years to reach your eyes, so it left star in early 1996.

Vega was the first star, other than our Sun, to be photographed, having its celestial portrait taken on the night of July 16-17 in 1850. The photo was a daguerreotype, a process which creates a detailed image on a sheet of copper coated with silver. The photo was taken through the 38-centimeter (15-inch) aperture refractor at the Harvard Observatory by William Bond and James Adams Whipple.

Installed in 1847 the 38-centimeter refractor at Harvard was the largest telescope in the United States for 20 years, and was known as “The Great Refractor.”

Vega was also the first star, other than our Sun, to have its spectrum photographed, by Henry Draper in August, 1872. Like the spectrum of the Sun, the star’s spectrum showed absorption lines, dark lines where specific wavelengths or colors emitted by the star were absorbed by cooler gases in upper layers of its atmosphere.

The constellation Lyra is easily spotted, made up of a small parallelogram of four equally bright stars to the southeast of Vega and a single star of similar brightness to the northeast. A lovely planetary nebula, the Ring Nebula, lies directly between the closer spaced pair of stars in the parallelogram farthest from Vega. Being close to obvious landmarks, the Ring Nebula is a fine, easily located, target for beginning telescope users

Skywatch Line for Monday July 19th and Tuesday July 20th, 2021

This is the Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday July 19th, and 20th, written by Joe Slomka.

The Sun sets at 8:29 PM; night falls at 10:34. Dawn begins at 3:30 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 5:35.
The 10-day-old Moon rises at 4:10 PM in southwestern Libra, is highest at 9 PM, 70% illuminated, and sets at 1:53 AM.

Tuesday finds the Moon in Scorpius’ claws, rising at 5:27 PM, 32 arc-minutes in size, 80% lit and sets at 2:37 AM.
Last week’s close encounter of Venus and Mars has dissolved. Venus continues to be the “evening star,” blazing with minus 3rd magnitude, a moderate 12 arc-seconds 85% illuminated, 8° above the western horizon, and setting at 9:56 PM. Venus closes in to Leo’s bright star Regulus on Monday and Tuesday. Mars lies about 4° below Venus, glowing with first magnitude, a tiny 3 arc-seconds, 5° above the horizon and sets at 9:45 PM. Both are low and may require an unobstructed horizon; binoculars will help find both amid the bright sunset.

Saturn, in Capricornus, rises at 9:08 PM, in the East, while Venus and Mars are still up. The Ringed Planet shines with zero magnitude, is a moderate 8 arc-seconds and is highest at 2 AM; it is 13° high by 10:30 PM and 23° by Midnight.
Aquarius houses Jupiter and Neptune. Jupiter rises at 10:02 PM, glows with minus 2nd magnitude, a large 47 arc-seconds and is highest at 3:18 AM; it is 10° high at 11PM and 19° high at Midnight. Tuesday, telescopic observers can witness the Jovian moon Io being eclipsed at 10:31 PM and at 11:50 PM see Europa reappear from being occulted. Wednesday at 1:33 AM, observers can experience Io’s reappearance. Neptune rises at 10:53 PM, glimmering with 7th magnitude, a small 2 arc-seconds and highest at 4:41 AM. Uranus, in Aries, rises at 12:53 AM, shines with 5th magnitude, 3 arc-seconds and sets during daytime.

About Midnight, a constellation, shaped like a stick drawing of a house, Cepheus, points toward the North Star – Polaris. In Greek legend, Cepheus was king-husband of Cassiopeia and father of Andromeda. Cepheus houses one star that became the prototype of a whole class of stars. Cepheids are variable stars that have relatively short periods, usually days. These stars vary their light due to processes within the stars. In 1893, Henrietta Swan Leavitt worked as a human computer for Harvard Observatory. She was engaged in a project when she made a discovery. Leavitt noticed that the variation period of this class of star was in direct proportion to its intrinsic brightness. The Cepheid became a “standard candle.” If you know how bright the star is, and you see it from Earth as dimmer, one can estimate distance to the star. Miss Leavitt made it possible to reckon distances to star clouds and galaxies. All one had to do is find a Cepheid star and note its period. Ms. Leavitt’s discovery made possible the amazing progress of astrophysics in the Twentieth Century.

Skywatch Line for Friday, July 16, through Sunday, July 18, 2021

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, July 16, through Sunday, July 18, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, Sun rises at 5:32am and sets at 8:31pm; Moon rises at 12:25pm. The Moon completes the first quarter of its orbit around Earth at 6:10am on Saturday. Its 90-degree angle away from the Sun will cause us to see the Moon half-illuminated on its eastern side. At first quarter, the Moon rises around mid-day and sets around midnight.

As darkness falls on Friday and Saturday, the Moon introduces you to Spica, the brightest star to in the constellation Virgo the Maiden. Once every month, as the Moon makes its monthly rounds in front of the constellations of the zodiac, the Moon sweeps by Spica. From a distance of 262 light-years away, Spica appears to us on Earth to be a lone bluish-white star in a quiet region of the sky. Spica consists of two stars, and maybe more. The pair are both larger and hotter than our Sun. They’re separated by 11 million miles. They orbit their common center of gravity in four days. Earth is 93.3 million miles from our Sun. The two stars in the Spica system are individually indistinguishable from a single point of light, even with a telescope. The dual nature of this star was revealed only by analysis of its light with a spectroscope.

On Saturday, the dim and distant dwarf planet Pluto will reach opposition. The Earth will be positioned between Pluto and the Sun. While at opposition, Pluto will be located 3.10 billion miles, or 277 light-minutes from Earth and it will shine with an extremely faint visual magnitude 14.3. That’s far too dim for visual observing through backyard telescopes. Pluto will be located in the sky about midway between Saturn and the bright star Nunki in Sagittarius’ Teapot asterism.

On Sunday, the main belt asteroid designated (2) Pallas will halt its regular eastward motion in front of the distant stars and begin a retrograde loop that will last until early November. Pallas’ visual magnitude of 9.7 will allow it to be seen in amateur telescopes starting in late evening. On Sunday, Pallas will be positioned in the eastern sky, less than half a degree to the right of the magnitude 6.65 star HIP116417 and the magnitude 7.35 star HIP116431, which sit near the ring of stars that forms the western fish in Pisces. The asteroid and those stars will appear together in the eyepiece of your telescope.

The Coathanger, or Brocchi’s cluster, is a tiny asterism. This star formation looks exactly like its namesake and is easy to make out through binoculars, you need to know just where to look. The Summer Triangle asterism can help point the way. The cluster is located along a line between two Triangle stars, Vega, and Altair.

On July 17, 1850, the first photograph of a star, other than our Sun, was taken. At Harvard Observatory, the observatory director, William Cranch Bond and a Boston photographer John Adams Whipple took a daguerreotype of Vega. Astrophotography began in 1840, when John William Draper took an image of the Moon, using the same daguerreotype technique. The technique was based on polishing a sheet of silver-plated copper to a mirror finish, treating it with fumes that made its surface sensitive to light and exposing it in a camera for as long as it was necessary. The plate was then developed in a current of magnesium vapor, which adhered to the light-struck parts of the plate.

Skywatch Line for Wednesday, July 14 and Thursday, July 15, 2021

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Wednesday, July 14 and Thursday, July 15, written by Alan French.

The Sun now sets at 8:40 p.m. and rises at 5:27 a.m.

A waxing crescent Moon now graces the evening sky. The Moon will be 25% illuminated on Wednesday night and set at 11:37 P.M. The visible face will be 35% in sunlight on Thursday night and set at midnight. The Moon will reach first quarter on Saturday morning, July 17.

Mars and Venus continue to be visible in the early evening sky after sunset. At 9:30 P.M. brilliant Venus, at magnitude -3.9, will be just over 6 degrees above the horizon, between west and west northwest. Mars, at magnitude +1.8, competing with evening twilight, may not be obvious by eye, depending on sky conditions. Look for it just to the lower right of Venus, only 1.5-degrees away. (The end of your pinkie, held at arm’s length, spans 1 degree.) If you can’t spot Mars by eye, try with binoculars.

There are fine evening passes of the ISS across our skies on both Wednesday and Thursday night. The times and descriptions are for Schenectady, but they should be fine for anyone in the Capital District and surrounding region.

On Wednesday night look for the International Space Station (ISS) coming up from the west southwestern horizon at 10:20 P.M. Just after 10:22 it will pass to the right of bright, reddish Arcturus in the southwest and past the constellation Boötes, the kite shaped pattern of stars extending upward from Arcturus. Just before 10:23 the space station will pass above the end star of the Big Dipper’s handle, and then, as it travels among the stars of Draco, past the Little Dipper. It will then pass the “W” pattern of stars of Cassiopeia and then down toward the northeastern horizon, disappearing below the horizon at 10:28. When highest, 69 degrees above the north northwestern horizon just after 10:23, the ISS will be magnitude -3.5.

The ISS pass on Thursday night is earlier and crosses higher in the sky. It will also be brighter, reaching magnitude -3.9. Look for the ISS at 9:33 P.M. rising up from the southwestern horizon. It will pass close to brilliant Spica, 23 degrees above the horizon, at 9:34. It will then pass south of Arcturus and Boötes and through Hercules. At 9:36:20 it will pass close to Vega, the brightest star in Lyra, the Lyre, and fifth brightest star in the night sky. The ISS will then pass-through Cygnus, the Swan, and disappear below the northeastern horizon at 9:41.

Skywatch Line for Monday July 12th and Tuesday July 13th, 2021

This is the Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday July 12th, and 13th, written by Joe Slomka.

The Sun sets at 8:33 PM; night falls at 10:43. Dawn begins at 3:18 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 5:29.

The waxing Moon occupies Leo on both nights. Monday, the Moon rose during daylight and sets at 10:40 PM, 9% illuminated and 30 arc-minutes in size. Tuesday, the Moon also rises during daylight and sets at 11:08 PM, fatter with 16% lit and 31 arc-minutes. By 9 PM, the Moon is about 6° high in the West on Monday; Tuesday finds it 22° high.

Leo entertains Venus and Mars; both rise during daytime. Venus becomes apparent first, blazing with minus 3rd magnitude, a moderate 11 arc-seconds in size and setting at 10:03 PM. Mars shines with 1st magnitude and appears only 3 arc-seconds in size. While Venus is very low, but obvious, the new observer may be hunting for Mars. To the naked eye, it may not appear. However, with binoculars or telescope, the observer will see that they are about one half of a degree apart – a close conjunction. Both rise, set and remain nearby at almost the same time on both nights. In addition, the Moon is also neighboring, creating a spectacular sight. Mars is winding down its yearlong appearance; it continues to descend nightly while Venus rises higher.

Saturn is the first of a planetary procession. Rising in Capricornus, the Ringed Planet rises at 9:37 PM, shines with zero magnitude and appears a moderate 18 arc-seconds in size; by 10 PM it is 4° high and by 11 PM its 12°. Jupiter, in Aquarius, is next, rising at 10:30 PM, sparkles with minus 2nd magnitude and a large 46 arc-seconds; by 11 PM it is 12° high and 20° at Midnight. By 11 PM, both planets are well placed for observation: Saturn for its rings and Jupiter for its varied views. Tuesday at 11:17 PM, telescopic observers can witness Jupiter’s moon Io reappearing from being eclipsed. Wednesday, they can view the Great Red Spot and, at 2:20 AM, they can watch the moon Callisto begin to march across Jupiter’s face.

Neptune, 21° below Jupiter, is third on parade, rising in Aquarius at 11:20, glowing with 8th magnitude and a small 2 arc-seconds in size. Uranus is the last to rise, at 1:20 AM in Aries; it shines with 5th magnitude, 3 arc-seconds, 7° high by 2 AM and 51° below Neptune. Mercury may present a challenge; it rises, in Gemini, at 4:08 AM, shining with minus 4th magnitude 6 arc-seconds and about 57° lit. However, the rapidly brightening Dawn sky may wash out the view.

The Saratoga Racing season begins on July 15th. As appropriate for the upcoming racing season, two horses appear by midnight. The largest horse is, of course, Pegasus. The smallest is Equuleus. This dim constellation is easy to find. Pegasus soars upside down and is easily identified as a Great Square. Two thin chains sweep northward from the upper left. If one follows across the chain, binoculars reveal a large hazy oval; this is revealed, in telescopes, to be the Andromeda Galaxy – about two and a half million light years distant. You can see it with the naked eye under rural skies. Pegasus’ neck flows from the lower right corner and angles up. Equuleus is the small angular line of stars West of the Pegasus’ nose. A globular star cluster, M 15, lies halfway between Pegasus’ nose and Equuleus. This too is easily seen in binoculars.

Skywatch Line for Friday, July 9, through Sunday, July 11, 2021

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, July 9, through Sunday, July 11, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, Sun rises at 5:26am and sets at 8:35pm; Moon rises at 4:43am and sets at 8:45pm. The Moon will reach its new phase on Friday at 9:17 pm.

Low in the west-northwestern sky after sunset on Sunday, the young crescent Moon will shine a generous palm’s width to the right of bright Venus, and much fainter Mars. On the following evening, the Moon’s orbital motion will lift it to sit a similar distance above those two planets. Venus, at magnitude –3.8, shines low in the west-northwest during twilight. Tiny Mars, nearly 200 times fainter at magnitude +1.8, is closing in on Venus from the upper left. They’re separated by 2 degrees on Friday. They’ll be in conjunction, ½° apart, on Monday and Tuesday. Both planets set before twilight ends.

Saturn, in constellation Capricornus, and brighter Jupiter, in constellation Aquarius, show up by late evening. Saturn, at magnitude +0.4, rises around the end of twilight. Jupiter, at magnitude –2.6, comes up one hour later, to Saturn’s lower left. They’re up in fine view after midnight, and they’re highest in the south at their telescopic best in the hour before dawn begins.

You can see constellation of Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer on these July nights. You will need a dark sky to be able to see its faint stars. Look for Ophiuchus in the direction south at nightfall. Use bright red star Antares in the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion to help you find Ophiuchus. Look for Ophiuchus a short hop to the north of Antares. Ophiuchus’ brightest star, the 2nd-magnitude star called Rasalhague, highlights the head of Ophiuchus. Rasalhague is nowhere near as bright as Antares. Rasalhague is a binary star. Its name is derived from an Arabic word that means “the head of the serpent collector”. Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer is sometimes called the 13th or forgotten constellation of the zodiac. The Sun passes in front of Ophiuchus from about November 30 to December 18 each year.

If you have a dark enough sky on these moonless nights, the Milky Way now forms a magnificent arch high across the whole eastern sky. It runs all the way from below Cassiopeia in the north-northeast, up and across Cygnus and the Summer Triangle in the east, and down past the spout of the Sagittarius Teapot in the south.

Skywatch Line for Monday July 5th and Tuesday July 6th, 2021

This is the Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Monday (Independence Day) and Tuesday July 5th, and 6th written by Joe Slomka.
The Sun sets at 8:37 PM; night falls at 10:50. Dawn begins at 3:11 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 5:24.

Monday finds the Earth furthest from the Sun, 152,100,527 KM (94,510,885 miles)- 3.4% more distant than in northern hemisphere Winter.
Taurus hosts the Moon on both nights. The 25-day-old Moon sets at 4:54 PM on Monday, rises at 2:42 AM on Tuesday, sets at 5:56 PM and rises at 3:15 AM on Wednesday.

Mars and Venus, in Cancer, continue to be visible low in the West. Venus blazes at minus 3rd magnitude and is a moderate 11 arc-seconds in our binoculars and telescopes. Mars shines with 1st magnitude and small 3 arc-seconds small. Both are very low and require an unobstructed view. Both set by 10:17 PM. Note that Venus climbs higher nightly while Mars becomes lower nightly.

Soon bright planets follow. Saturn, in Capricornus rises at 10:06 PM, shines with zero magnitude and presents a moderate size of 18 arc-seconds; it is highest at 2:59 AM. Jupiter, in Aquarius, trails by rising at 10:59 PM and is highest at 4:17 AM. Telescopic observers can witness the moon Ganymede be eclipsed at 12:41 AM on Wednesday and the Great Red Spot at 1:07 AM. Jupiter begins retrograde motion, which means it appears to halt and then back up in the sky.

Neptune, also in Aquarius, arises at 10:48 PM, shining with 7th magnitude and a tiny 2 arc-seconds; it’s 13° high by 1 AM. In Aries, Uranus joins the scene by rising at 1:47 AM, glimmers with 5th magnitude and a larger 3 arc-seconds; it is 13° high by 2 AM. By 3 AM, Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune, Uranus and the Moon form a brilliant chain in the eastern sky. Mercury is the challenge object. In Taurus, it rises at 4:07 AM, shines with zero magnitude and is, for Mercury, a large 7 arc-seconds. It is 4° high in the East. Mercury reached its greatest separation from the Sun on Sunday; its small size, low position and the rapidly brightening dawn makes observing difficult. As a possible aid to the observer, the Moon appears between Mercury and the star Aldebaran in Taurus’ horns, during Wednesday’s dawn.

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. Accounts said it “shone like a comet.” The “guest star” shone in daylight for 23 days and was visible nightly for a year and a half. Most textbooks remark that no one in Europe or the Mideast saw it. However, North American natives saw it and made rock carvings depicting it. Charles Messier made it the first in his list of false comet objects. We now know the Crab Nebula is the remnant of a star that blew up. It blazed with the brightness of 500 million suns and produced a pulsar, a residue body that spins rapidly and emits regular radio pulses.

Skywatch Line for Friday, July 2, through Sunday, July 4, 2021

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, July 2, through Sunday, July 4, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, Sun rises at 5:22am and sets at 8:37pm; Moon rises at 1:07am and sets at 1:50pm. When the waning crescent Moon rises around 2:00am in the east on Sunday, it will be positioned a slim palm’s width to the right of the magnitude 5.8 planet Uranus, close enough for them to share the view in binoculars. Try to find the planet before 4:30am before the brightening dawn sky overwhelm it.

Mercury will be visible in the pre-dawn sky during much of July. On Sunday, Mercury will reach a maximum angle of 22 degrees west of the Sun and peak visibility for its morning apparition. The best time to see the planet will come just before 5:00am, when Mercury will sit very low in the east-northeastern sky. In a telescope the planet will show a 36-per-cent-illuminated waxing crescent phase. Mercury’s position well below the morning ecliptic will make this apparition a poor one for Northern Hemisphere observers.

On Friday, Venus shines low in the west-northwest during twilight, with vastly fainter Mars now just 6 degrees to its upper left. They set before twilight’s end.
Venus hardly moves now with respect to your landscape from week to week, but its background stars are sliding toward the lower right. On Friday, the Beehive Cluster, M44, passes behind Venus. This will be difficult to observe. You’ll have to catch the narrow time window between the sky being too bright and Venus and the Beehive getting too low and setting. Try binoculars or a wide-field scope.

Jupiter, at magnitude -2.6, and Saturn, at magnitude +0.4, rise in late evening. They shine at their highest and telescopic best in the south before dawn. Saturn sits 20 degrees to Jupiter’s right. Before dawn, look 20 degrees below or lower left Jupiter for Fomalhaut. It forms an isosceles right triangle with Jupiter and Saturn. Jupiter is at the almost right angle.

On July evenings, look eastward for the season’s signature star formation, the Summer Triangle asterism. Its stars are the first three to light up the eastern half of the sky after sunset. Their bright and sparkling radiance is visible even from light-polluted cities or on a moonlit night. Its top star is Vega, the brightest in all the east. The brightest to Vega’s lower left is Deneb. Farther to Vega’s lower right is Altair. The Milky Way runs a little inside the Triangle’s lower edge. As evening grows later and even Altair rises high, look left of Altair, by hardly more than a fist, for the compact little constellation Delphinus, the Dolphin. Then try for even fainter, smaller Sagitta, the Arrow, to Altair’s upper left and just a little closer. The Arrow aims lower left, past the nose of Delphinus.

On July 4th. 1054, a supernova, a violently exploding star, was seen in China and in other places in the world. The supernova was visible in daylight for 23 days and at night for almost 2 years. References to the event were found in a later Japanese and Arabic documents. Rock paintings in North America suggest that Native Indians in Arizona and New Mexico saw it. It is believed the Crab Nebula in the constellation Taurus is the remanent of this supernova. The core of the exploded star formed the Crab Pulsar.