This article was contributed by David Baumgartner as part of a local series on astronomy.
This July we get the pleasure of seeing seven of the eight major planets and Pluto roaming around the skies, as long as you know where to look for them. The heavens above can be very daunting when you first look up and see absolutely nothing that seems familiar to you. Even now after viewing the skies for some 60 years or more, I still seem to wander off and get lost. Of course at my age I have a tendency to get lost at Dunne Park, a whole other story.
Seeing the amazing rings of Saturn, the moons of Jupiter, Mars the red planet, and Venus in its moonlike phases. And then with the proper viewing equipment you can pick out Mercury, Uranus, Pluto and Neptune in their predawn show, which provide a great planetary delight for the month of July. I see that some of you are having a problem with numbers here. Don’t forget good ole Earth as one of the eight planets. So I guess with all that in mind, we are looking at eight of the eight major planets. My bad. You can always count on Earth being there for you, just look straight down. One of the few planets you can view in the day time as well. I hope you are writing this information down, this is good stuff to pass on to your grandkids. Check out its validity first though.
Jupiter was located about 15° high on July 1 at 11 p.m. PST, glowing at -2.7 magnitude. This month Jupiter will be at its closest point to the Earth, making its position very good to view its surface bands and moons. Make an effort this month to take advantage of this bountiful view. Saturn, what else can be said about this most stunning object in the solar system? The rings are gorgeous, seemingly to be looking back at us with a smile. This month Saturn will be traveling along side with Jupiter, only 6° apart, just another fabulous view for the month. Let’s not miss this one.
Pluto will also be in the same area as these two giants, though very difficult to pick out of the sky unless you go and barrow the 30” refractor telescope up at Lick’s Observatory. They seem to be very particular about who they loan that scope out to. Feel free to use my name if that will help. That should occur just before they escort you off the mountain.
So actually where are these planets this month, you say? This should help:
In the Morning sky: Mercury will be in the Northeast, Venus and Uranus will be in the East. Mars and Neptune will be in the South, while Jupiter and Saturn will be roaming the Southwest.
In the Evening sky: Jupiter and Saturn will be located in the Southeast.
By Midnight, if you are still coherent: Mars will be in the East, Jupiter and Saturn will be in the Southern sky. While Neptune will be seen in the Southeast.
As far as Pluto’s location goes, and you have the equipment to see it, you probably don’t need me to tell you where Pluto is located this month. If you do have such equipment around the house, feel free to ask me over sometime. Preferably at night. For the rest of you out there, Pluto will be tagging along with the two giants this month. If you would like to view Pluto you are going to have to wait until our new friend above ask us all over some night.
If you are into comets, then “PanStarrs” should be the one for you. And if this is not enough then we have “88P/Howell” visiting us by New Moon at the end of the month. If you are interested, then check them both out on the net for more information and maps to help you find them. There is so much out there to see, you can’t expect to catch it all. So study up in the daytime and make a plan for that evening and you’ll be surprised how much you will see. Don’t forget your family. If you don’t have any close by then give me a call, I have nine grandchildren you can pick from, or take them all.
Well, as you can see, there is an awful lot to look at this month. You don’t even need a telescope, binoculars do just fine.
July 4: Earth is at aphelion (95.5 million miles from the Sun)
July 5: Full Moon
July 5: Penumbral lunar eclipse
July 5: Moon passes 1.9° south of Jupiter
July 6: Moon passes 2°south of Saturn
July 10: Moon passes 4° south of Neptune
July 11: Moon passes 2° south of Mars
July 12: Venus passes 1° north of Aldebaran
July 12: The Moon is at apogee (251,158 miles from Earth)
July 12: Last Quarter Moon
July 14: Moon passes 4° south of Uranus