JULY 2006 SKYWATCH
by Maya del Mar
Jupiter is the planetary star of the month. This is natural, for it is the largest planet, next to Venus the brightest, and the only planet which gives off more energy than it absorbs. In myth, Jupiter is the King of the Gods.
In the Northern Hemisphere, Jupiter appears each night, as soon as the skies are dark, in the southwestern region of the sky. It is bright! And low enough now for people to notice it. Throughout July, Jupiter remains on view until after midnight.
Jupiter makes its turn to direct motion on July 6, which means it is moving slowly during the entire month. Jupiter is the ruling planet of the U.S. This change in direction is another sign of the importance of the U.S. during this month.
Radiant Jupiter is now flanked by two bright fixed stars, bluish Spica, Goddess of the Harvest, to its right, and rusty Antares, God of War, to its left.
On July 5 a waxing gibbous moon passes very close to Jupiter.
From the Northern Hemisphere, the moon, and the night planets, appear low in the southern sky this time of year, because the earths North Pole points away from this part of space. By the same token, Sun in the daytime is higher, and hotter.
In the Southern Hemisphere, the story is the opposite, And now, from the Southern Hemisphere, Jupiter appears directly overhead. In fact, in the Southern Hemisphere, six years of great Jupiter-observing started with this Summer Solstice.
Mars dances with Regulus.
Mars and Saturn are now very low in the West, and are visible for only a short while after sunset, before they sink into the western horizon. By the end of July, they will be gone from sight, caught by the Sun.
Mars is orangish and Saturn is gold. To the upper left of this pair is another bright fixed star, Regulus, the Royal Star.
Watch Mars close in on Regulus. By July 20, they are right next to one another, with Mars the reddish body on top. One night later, Mars has moved noticeably, and then will stand above Regulus!
By July 22, Mars, still close to Regulus, leaves just enough space between them for the last sliver of the old moon to pass through.
And then, when the crescent New Moon returns to the night sky on July 27, it will make a beautiful trio with Mars and Saturn. The Moon actually covers Mars then, but only during daylight.
Observers will notice that the Moon cuts abnormally low across the southern sky this summer. This is the out-of-bounds moonMoon orbiting outside of, or very close to the edge of, the ecliptic, which is the Suns path. This adds to the usual night emphasis on the southern sky during the summer. It also indicates an unusual influence of the Moon.
Venus continues to dominate the morning sky.
On July 1, Venus rises two hours before the Sun. As do our other visible planets, it too has spectacular company. It sits in the Hyades, a bit above reddish Aldebaran, the Eye of the Bull. During July, Venus traverses the constellations of Taurus, and then Gemini. Each morning it rises a bit later.
On July 22, that old crescent moon passes very close to Venus, a gorgeous sight in the dawn skies.
Even earlier, on the morning of July 20, observers in the eastern half of North America can have a great view of this crescent moon crossing, and occulting, the Pleiades.
Fixed stars are prominent.
Notice that all of the planets visible this month are very close to major fixed stars.
In fact, three of the four ancient Royal Stars are pinpointedAntares, Regulus, and Aldebaran. They sit in three of the fixed sign constellationsScorpio, Leo, and Taurus. We thus see those powerful fixed signs emphasized in the sky, as well as in our tropical astrology.
For eons, fixed stars in prominent positions have been related to important historical events.
The night sky shows this July to be a very significant month for the Earth.
Dont miss skywatching this month!
July 1-2. Morning sky. Venus is close to the Pleiades and the Hyades. (Eyes are featured here.)
July 3. First Quarter Moon. Earth is far from Sun.
July 4. Moon passes next to Spica.
July 5. Moon passes close to Jupiter.
July 8. Moon passes next to Antares.
July 10. Full Moon.
July 13. Moon very close to Earth.
July 14. Moon occults Uranus. Visible in South Africa.
July 17. Last Quarter Moon.
July 20. Morning sky. Moon with Pleiades.
July 20-22. Mars dances around Regulus.
July 22. Morning sky. Moon passes close to Venus.
July 25. New Moon.
July 27. Moon passes very close to Mars.
July 28. Southern Delta Aquarid Meteor Shower peaks.
July 31. Moon passes very close to Spica.