Linger outside on a warm summer evening, and enjoy the treat of four planets in display. Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. As the sky becomes darker and the stars slowly emerge, pick out the star patterns on display in the middle of the year. Low in the south are Sagittarius and Scorpius, embedded in the glorious heart of the Milky Way. Higher in the sky, the prominent Summer triangle is composed of Vega, Deneb and Altair, the leading lights of Lyra, Cygnus and Aquila. The Plough is in the north west and the Milky Way, which arches high across our eastern sky from Sagittarius and Scorpius low in the south to Cepheus, Cassiopeia and Perseus in the north east.
The innermost planet skulks low in the north east dawn twilight. Though it is at its greatest separation from the Sun on 4th July, you will see Mercury best on the third week of the month, when it rises around 4am and it brightens to magnitude –1.0
In the bright summer twilight, the first thing you will spot over in the west is the Evening star. Shinning at a brilliant magnitude of –3.9 Venus falls below the horizon about 10.30pm. On the 2nd and 3rd of the month, the planet grazes the fringes of M44 the Beehive star cluster. You will need binoculars or a low power telescope to view the event low on the horizon.
Early in the month Mars is close to Venus. Setting around 1030pm, the Red planet can be located in the constellation of Leo. With a magnitude of +1.8 Mars is outshone 200 times over by its showy companion. Venus and Mars have their closet encounter on the 12 July. Venus them moves off to the left, passing Regulus on the 21st of the month. The Red planet follows more slowly and can be seen close to Regulus on the 29th July.
Rising above the horizon just after Saturn around 10.30pm. The gas giant can be found in the constellation of Aquarius at magnitude –2.7.
The ringworld comes into view about 10pm. Lying in the constellation of Capricornus at magnitude +0.3.
Uranus is in the constellation of Aries. It will be just slightly brighter than Neptune at magnitude +5.8. During July it will rise above the horizon 1am.
You will need a pair of binoculars to spot Neptune lurking in the constellation of Aquarius. It is very faint with a magnitude of +7.8. At the beginning of July it will be coming above the horizon at 11.30pm.
This distant world rises above the horizon around 9.20pm. With a very faint magnitude of +14.3, using a telescope you will find it in the constellation of Sagittarius, before it disappears around 5.10am.
The largest object in the asteroid belt can be located in the constellation of Taurus. At magnitude +9.9 it should be visible through binoculars or a low power telescope, after 2am.
2-3 July: Venus passes M44 The Beehive star cluster.
5 July, 4am: The Pleiades star cluster is to the left of the crescent Moon.
5 July, 11.27pm: The Earth is furthest from the Sun at 152 Million kilometres.
6 July, 4am: The slender crescent Moon lies under the Pleiades, with Aldebaran to the lower left.
8 July, 4am: The thinnest crescent Moon passes just above Mercury, very low on the horizon. Binoculars will give the best view.
11 July: A narrow crescent Moon is to the right of a brilliant Venus.
12 July: Venus and Mars are having a close encounter with the Moon above and Regulus to the left.
13 July: Venus is near Mars, with the Moon and Regulus to the left.
24 July: Saturn is above the Moon, with Jupiter to the left.
25 July: The Moon passes below Jupiter.
Around the 28th and 29th of this month we will see the annual peak of the Delta Aquarid meteor shower. It might be possible to see up to 20 meteors per hour. The best time to see this shower will be between midnight and dawn. Delta Aquariid meteors may come from Comet Machholz which was discovered by Donald Machholz in 1986.
Phases of the Moon for July:-
Last Quarter 1st
New Moon 10th
First quarter 17th
Full Moon 24th