Celestial Navigator – July 2015

JULY MOON PHASES

Wednesday, July 8, 4:24 p.m. EDT  Last Quarter Moon

The Last Quarter Moon rises around 1:30 a.m. and sets around 1:30 p.m. It is most easily seen just after sunrise in the southern sky.

Wednesday, July 15, 9:24 p.m. EDT  New Moon

The moon is not visible on the date of New Moon because it is too close to the sun, but can be seen low in the east as a narrow crescent a morning or two before, just before sunrise. It is visible low in the west an evening or two after New Moon.

Friday, July 24, 12:04 a.m. EDT  First Quarter Moon

The First Quarter Moon rises around 1:15 p.m. and sets around 12:30 a.m. It dominates the evening sky.

Second Full Moon, July 2015

Friday, July 31, 6:43 a.m. EDT  Full Moon

This is the second Full Moon in July, what is sometimes called a “Blue Moon.” It rises around sunset and sets around sunrise; this is the only night in the month when the moon is in the sky all night long. The rest of the month, the moon spends at least some time in the daytime sky.

JULY PLANETS

Uranus and the Moon

Wednesday/Thursday, July 8/9, dawn

The moon will be close to Uranus just before sunrise. In the lands surrounding the Indian Ocean, the moon will actually occult Uranus.

Venus at greatest brilliancy

Thursday, July 9, dusk

Venus reaches its greatest brilliancy at magnitude –4.7.

Aldebaran and the Moon

Sunday, July 12, sunrise

The waning crescent moon will pass close to the bright red star Aldebaran low in morning twilight. The moon will occult Aldebaran as seen from eastern Russia, northern Japan, Alaska, northern Canada, Greenland, and Iceland.

Venus and the Moon

Saturday, July 18, dusk

The moon will be close to Venus just after sunset. Venus will appear in binoculars as a tiny crescent just north of the crescent moon. The moon will occult Venus as seen from New Guinea, northeastern Australia, Melanesia, and French Polynesia.

Ceres at opposition

Saturday, July 25, 4 a.m. EDT

Ceres, the largest asteroid or smallest dwarf planet, will be in opposition to the sun. At magnitude 7.5, it will be located right on the border between Sagittarius and Microscopium, just south of Capricornus.

Planets

Mercury is well placed in the eastern sky at dawn for the first half of the month for observers in the Southern Hemisphere.

Venus shines high in the western sky after sunset, reaching its greatest brilliancy from the sun on July 9.

Mars is too close to the sun to be visible.

Jupiter is low in the western evening sky all month, close to Venus on the 1st and 31st of the month.

Saturn is well placed in Libra in the evening sky.

Uranus rises near midnight in Pisces.

Neptune rises in the late evening in the constellation Aquarius.

Celestial Navigator – December 2014

With luck, skywatchers can catch sight of the five brightest planets in the sky this month.

The smallest and innermost of the planets, Mercury, will be overwhelmed by the dazzling glare of the sun for much of December, but by New Year’sEve, it will have edged far enough away from the sun’s vicinity to be glimpsed low in the west-southwest sky right after sundown.

Also slowly becoming more evident in the evening sky this month is the dazzling planet Venus; in fact, you can use it to point the way to Mercury by month’s end. On Dec. 22, Venus will be joined by an exceedingly thin crescent moon. Also in the western evening sky is Mars, now a full eight months past its brilliant apparition of last spring and continuing to fade as it pulls away from Earth.

Jupiter is now a brilliant fixture in the late evening and overnight hours, hovering not far from the sickle of Leo, while the ringed wonder, Saturn, begins to slowly lift higher in the east-southeast predawn sky.

Dec. 8: Mercury passes superior conjunction today, when the planet is on the opposite side of the sun from Earth. As this event coincides with the date of Mercury’s aphelion — its farthest point from the sun — the planet withdraws only very slowly to the east of the sun.

Dec. 11: Looking low toward the east-northeast horizon around 10 p.m. local time, you’ll see the waning gibbous moon, accompanied about 6 degrees to its upper left by the brilliant planet Jupiter shining at a dazzling magnitude of minus 2.3 — more than twice as luminous as Sirius, the brightest star in the sky.

Dec. 19: If you look very low toward the east-southeast horizon at around 5:30 a.m. local time, you’ll see a delicately thin waning crescent moon. Sitting about 5 degrees below and to its left will be a bright yellow-white “star” shining with a sedate glow. That will be Saturn.

Dec. 22: Venus returns to its role of “evening star” this month. When December begins, this planet is just 5 degrees high in the southwest at sundown (as seen from about 40 degrees north latitude) and touches the horizon just over half an hour later.

This evening, this magnitude minus 3.9 world is 9 degrees high at sunset and remains up for another hour. Look for it about half an hour after sunset low to the southwest horizon; if you spot it, look about 7 degrees to its right for a breathtakingly thin waxing crescent moon less than one day from new phase.  Binoculars will help.

Dec. 24: If you look southwest at dusk on Christmas Eve, you’ll see a crescent moon, and about 7 degrees to its left, shining with a yellow-orange hue, will be Mars. The Red Planet has now receded to a distance of 180 million miles (290 million kilometers) from Earth.

Dec. 31: Mercury is still setting in the middle of evening twilight. Using binoculars, search for it within half an hour of sunset, about 4 degrees to the lower right of the much brighter Venus. These two planets will put on a great evening show during the first three weeks of January.

Excerpts from http://www.space.com/27898-brightest-planets-december-night-sky.html