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Sky Report - July 2011

Sights seen all through July 2011 – On July evenings, the southernmost zodiac star groups are at their best, suspended close to the southern horizon. On the right is the most striking zodiac group – the Scorpion, resembling a starry ‘J’. Near the top of the ‘J’ is the bright pink star Antares. To the right of Antares are three moderately bright stars marking the claws of the Scorpion. Go down the ‘J’ and curl upward to the left and you’ll see a close pair of stars known as ‘the cat’s eyes’ (the Scorpion’s stinger).. To the left of the Scorpion is Sagittarius, whose brighter stars form an old fashioned tea kettle. The tea kettle’s pouring spout is just to the left of the Scorpion’s stinger while the kettle’s handle is farthest to the left. On dark, moonless nights in late July, the Milky Way can be seen running across these two groups. The sun appears to glide across the Scorpion’s claws and head in the last week of November and passes above the tea kettle from mid December to early January. So as the year draws to an end, both the Scorpion and Sagittarius are lost in the sun’s glare. On July evenings, the very bright white-blue star Vega appears near the top of the sky. If you extend the Big Dipper’s handle (look in the North Northwest), you will come to the bright golden star Acturus, high in the West on July evenings. On July evenings, the Big Dipper’s scoop is about half way up (from the horizon to the top of the sky). The two lowest stars of the scoop point rightward to the North Star, a modest solitary star. Above the North Star is a trail of stars that marks the tail of Draco, the Dragon. Follow the trail to the right and downward, to find the Dragon’s stubby body. The Dragon’s neck and head lie to the right of the body; near the Dragon’s head is the bright white-blue star Vega.

Early July 2011 Sights – On July 1st, the moon swings from the morning to the evening side of the sun. By July 3rd, a narrow crescent moon should seen (weather permitting) low in the western dusk. To the right of the moon on that evening will be the planet Mercury. The evening moon will appear half full on July 7th, offering the best views of its craters and mountain ranges through binoculars or telescope. On that same evening, the moon will appear below the planet Saturn. (Saturn will shine steadily, not twinkling as the night stars.) On the next evening, the moon will appear close to Spica, Virgo’s brightest star.

Mid July 2011 Sights – The evening moon grows to full on July 14th, appearing above and to the right of Sagittarius (Tea Pot). Just as for June’s full moon, this month’s full moon has a low track across the night sky. July’s full moon is visible for about ten hours, rising about sunset, cresting only 1/3 of the way up in the South and setting as the sun rises. Four nights later, the moon will have fled into the morning sky, not rising till after midnight.

Late July 2011 Sights – On the morning of July 23rd, the moon appears half full in the southern dawn. On the next morning, the moon appears to the left of the bright planet Jupiter. On the morning of July 27th , the moon appears above and to the right of the planet Mars. On July 30th, the moon swings from the morning side to the evening side of the sun.

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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