Watchers’ guide to the sights of July night skies
July brings on the summer monsoon and some additional sights in our Arizona skies!
The month opens up with the moon at its last quarter phase, rising near midnight and high in the sky at dawn.
From here, the moon then moves on to a waning crescent and finally on to another new phase on the 10th.
Sharp-eyed observers will see a very thin crescent moon low in the northwest on the evening of the 11th. All this being dependent on having a near-free monsoon sky right after sunset.
The moon will then travel along the ecliptic and get higher in our evening skies till it reaches first quarter phase on the 17th.
This is a great time for all that have binoculars or telescopes to view the best shadow relief along the light and dark line we call the terminator.
After the 17th, the moon is now in its gibbous or egg-shaped phase, only to move on to the next full moon of the month, this being the full buck moon on the evening of the 23rd, rising in the southeast at 7:47 p.m. Arizona time.
Here is a link to the rising and setting times for the moon this month.
After this, the moon will turn into a waning moon and reach last quarter phase on the 31st.
For planets, we have some exciting news for observers just after sunset.
Venus and Mars will be very close in the sky during the period from July 11-16.
Venus and Mars will come within a half of a degree in our skies on the night of the 13th. I suggest a pair of binoculars to get the best view. Look to the northwestern sky around 20 minutes after sunset.
In reality, Venus is some 133 million miles from earth, while faint Mars is located 230 million miles from Earth. Together, they make for an interesting contrast in the night sky, as Venus is bright white, while Mars appears orange red.
The show of planets gets better as we look to the southeastern sky right around 10 p.m. local time as Saturn will rise and then soon after this, the king of the planets, Jupiter, will make a grand entrance about an hour later.
Both Jupiter and Saturn are well worth the time spent in looking at them in a small telescope.
Both planets will reach opposition in August and be well placed in our skies all night.
On a final note, get set for what may be the best meteor shower of the entire year, as we await the annual Perseid meteor shower, during the peak nights of Aug. 11-12.
We will cove this shower in greater detail in future columns.
Here is a link to learn more about the Perseids.
To print your own monthly star chart, click here.
To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.
Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday at 3 a.m.
Podcast available here.