EYES TO THE SKY July 9 – 22, 2018

Navigating a summer night

Jupiter and its moons Jupiter moons from bottom left to top right: Callisto, Ganymede, Io, and Europa. Click here to learn how to see Jupiter's moons. This photo was taken in Wisconsin on May 27, 2018 by Suzanne Murphy Photography. Courtesy EarthSky.org

Jupiter and its moons
Jupiter moons from bottom left to top right: Callisto, Ganymede, Io, and Europa. Click here to learn how to see Jupiter’s moons.
This photo was taken in Wisconsin on May 27, 2018
by Suzanne Murphy Photography.
Courtesy EarthSky.org

In early twilight, within half an hour of sunset when the western sky is pale blue, planet Venus turns our heads to receive its brilliant light, now 15 degrees above the horizon. Tonight, the 9th, Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation Leo the Lion, is in conjunction with Venus: when twilight deepens, see “the little king,” a glimmer just one degree to the lower left of Venus’ great light.
See bright star Regulus in closest proximity to Venus on Monday, July 9.

Before Regulus appears, after we first spot Venus, planet Jupiter beckons from the upper left of our field of view, 32 degrees above the south-southwest skyline. Then, Arcturus emerges above and to the right of Jupiter, forming a triangle with Jupiter and Venus. As the sky darkens and Venus loses altitude, we discover the Big Dipper above both Venus and Arcturus. The far edge of the Dipper’s bowl points to the dimmer North Star, also known as Polaris. Estimate 5 increments out from the width of the bowl to alight on Polaris. If urban pollution interferes with your view of the North Star, try binoculars.

Returning our gaze to Jupiter, a glance to the planet’s left, due south, reveals the glowing red star Antares. Further left, east of Antares, the next bright object we encounter is planet Saturn.

Beyond and below Saturn, increasing in brilliance every night, Mars rises above the southeast horizon at 9:57 p.m. tonight and at 9:01 p.m. on the 22nd (later where the view is obstructed.) The exceedingly bright, red planet is not to be missed as it travels the sky all night and is visible above the southwest horizon at dawn.

Note that sunset is around 8:30 p.m. through mid-July and nightfall is around 10:30 p.m. Stars and planets that are rising along the eastern skyline come up a few minutes earlier everyday, while stars and planets that are setting in the west disappear from the sky earlier everyday.
Opportunity to participate
Berkshire Summer Star Party, August 10 – 19
Judy Isacoff

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