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Sky Report - July 2012

Venus and Jupiter Blaze in Eastern Dawn, early Full Moon and Earth farthest from Sun in 2012

Features seen all through July: On July evenings, the Big Dipper is conspicuous in the Northwest, to the left of the North Star. The Dipper's scoop is tucked under the Dipper's bent handle. The two lowest stars of the Dipper's scoop point rightward to the North Star. The Dipper's handle stars can be extended outward to the bright golden star Acturus, high in the western evening sky. Nearly overhead is the bright white-blue star Vega, the top star of the Summer Triangle, now high in the East. Low in the South is a "J' shaped star group, the Scorpion. Near the upper end of the Scorpion is the bright pinkish star Antares. The planets Saturn and Mars are seen in the early evening sky. Saturn appears above the bright white-blue star Spica in the South. To the right of the Saturn-Spica pair is the yellow planet Mars. In the dawn sky, the two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter shine with a steady, piercing light in the eastern dawn. Venus is the lower and brighter of the pair.

Early July Sights - The shy planet Mercury appears low in the West Northwest as it begins to get dark (look about 9:20 p.m.). By mid July, Mercury will have fallen back into the sun's glare. The moon is full on the evening of July 3rd, appearing above Sagittarius, whose brighter stars form an old fashioned Tea Kettle. This full moon will have the lowest sky track of the year, peaking less than a third of the way up in the South in the middle of the night (about 1 a.m.). After July 8th, the moon, will be rising after midnight, allowing better evening sky observing. In the last evening hour of July 4th, the Earth will be farthest from the sun for the year. This maximum distance is 94.5 million miles, compared to our average solar distance of 93 million miles. Summer's heat is due to the Earth's northern hemisphere being tipped towards the sun at this time of the year. At dawn on July 9th, the planet Venus will appear less than a degree from the bright star Aldebaran, that marks the eye of Taurus.

Mid July Sights - On July 12th, the moon appears half full in the southern dawn. On July 15th, a slender crescent moon will appear just below and to the left of the bright planet Jupiter in the southeastern 5 a.m. sky. Late on July 18th, the moon will swing from one side of the sun to the other; this is called the New Moon phase.

Late July Sights - After July 22nd, a slender crescent moon will be visible low in the southwestern dusk. By the evening of July 25th, the evening moon will appear half full, with its bowed side facing the sun. On the last evening of July, the moon will be nearly full, appearing low in the East as the sun sets. As July closes, the brilliant planet Venus will be rising 3 hours before sunrise. Jupiter is higher and to the right of Venus, rising an hour earlier.

By Dr. Bob Doyle

To contact Dr. Doyle, his mailing address is Planetarium, Frostburg State University, Frostburg, MD 21532 or by email at rdoyle@frostburg.edu.









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