July skies offer monsoon storms, super thunder moon and Pluto

Jun 29, 2022, 2:00 PM

(Pixabay Photo)...

(Pixabay Photo)

(Pixabay Photo)

With the summer monsoon season well underway, the night skies of July offer up some interesting sights and events.

The 2022 monsoon season is well on its way to being stronger than many had predicted.

Besides spectacular views of lightning and the sounds of thunder, there is much more to see in Arizona’s July night skies.

But before we begin that journey, let’s discuss the phenomenon of lightning and the related components which lightning displays into our Arizona skies.

Lightning is like a giant spark of electricity in the atmosphere between clouds, air and ground.

Lightning is one of the oldest of all observed natural phenomenon on Earth and can often be seen around volcanic eruptions, forest fires, snowstorms and large hurricanes, to name a few examples.

As you see the lightning bolt, know that the air around that discharge has temperatures around 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit and causes the air to explode outward, the sound of “thunder.”

Thunder can be heard 25 miles or more from the source!

Here are some details on lightning and some of the dangers for those exposed in open areas.

For those of you who enjoy observing thunderstorms from a distance, there are a few additional phenomenon that you might like to look for and or capture on your phone or camera.

These are known as upper atmospheric lightning, known by the names of sprites, blue jets and elves.

Here is an explanation of these little understood atmospheric phenomenon.

Best of luck in viewing!

Now, as we peek through the Arizona monsoon, we come to a review of other objects and events in our July skies.

As July opens, we look to the moon, which begins the month as a thin, waxing crescent low in the west-northwest sky at sunset.

First quarter moon occurs on the 6th, then becomes a waxing gibbous form in the sky.

The July super thunder moon will occur on the night of the 13th. Look for a spectacular moon rising in the southeastern sky at 8:13 p.m. Arizona time.

On that night, the moon will be 221,997 miles from Earth.

This is the next in a series of super moon events which will happen this year.

From here, the moon will become a waning gibbous moon and reach last quarter on July 20, the 53rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing.

The final act is a new moon on July 28.

The great planet alignment of June will continue into the early part of July. Look to the northeastern sky around 4:30 a.m. Arizona time, as Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will adorn the sky.

Best will be a close conjunction of the moon and Mars on the morning of July 21, as the two will come within a degree of each other.

Saturn will reach opposition Aug. 14, rising at sunset, while Jupiter returns to the evening sky with its own opposition on Sept. 26.

And a final look at the distant world discovered here in Arizona, as the then-planet Pluto, now a dwarf planet, comes to opposition on the night of July 19.

Best view in a large telescope will come around the new moon on July 29.

Here are some detailed charts to help you locate what was once the farthest planet in our solar system.

As you can see, there is much to see and do in our Arizona skies this month.

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.

Podcasts are available here.

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July skies offer monsoon storms, super thunder moon and Pluto