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.

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