The first few nights of July continues the opportunity to see an unusual planetary configuration with all 5 bright planets lying in order from the sun in the morning south eastern sky. First, Mercury hugs the morning horizon, then brilliant Venus, followed by red Mars, bright Jupiter and finally, Saturn. Don’t forget a 6th planet, the one you are standing on, Earth! You’ll be able to see the 5 planets until Mercury slips away in the morning twilight in early July.
On the 4th July the Earth is at it’s furthest from the Sun at just over 152 million kilometres away. On the 13th of this month we have the brightest of all the four super moons this year. The Moon will be just 357,418 kilometres away and it will be 30% brighter than the faintest full Moon.
The full Moon in July is called the Buck Moon as it is the time of year that male deer shed their antlers and begin to regrow them in July.
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 is to close to the Sun this month for observation.
Venus is a glorious morning star all month. Rising around 3am, its radiance putting all the stars and other planets to shame, with its magnitude of –3.9.
You will find the red planet rising around half past midnight, at magnitude +0.3. For the first few nights of the month it can be found in the constellation of Pisces, but them moves into neighbouring Aires.
After Neptune, comes Jupiter; blazing at magnitude –2.6. The gas giant rises about midnight. It can be found within the outline of the ancient star pattern of Pisces, though according to the official boundaries that were drawn up in 1928, Jupiter trespasses this month into the corner of neighbouring Cetus.
The ring world is leading a veritable parade of planets that is starting to rise above the horizon after midnight. Saturn appears into view in the south east about 10.30pm. It lies in the constellation of Capricornus and shines at magnitude +0.5
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. By the end of the month Mars will have moved close to the seventh planet.
Din Neptune at magnitude +7.9 follows Saturn above horizon around 11.30pm. It can be located on the borders of Aquarius and Pisces.
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. It will be visible all night long.
The largest object in the asteroid belt can be located in the constellation of Gemini. At magnitude +8.4 it unfortunately will be out of view during the short nights we have this month.
15th July – Saturn lies directly above the almost full Moon.
19th July – The brilliant star by the half Moon is the gas giant planet Jupiter.
21st and 22nd July – Before dawn brakes the half Moon is close to the red planet Mars.
26th and 27th July – Before dawn low in the north west, the crescent Moon forms a striking pair with magnificent Venus.
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:-
First quarter 7th July
Full Moon 13th July
Last quarter 20th July
New Moon 28th July