Night sky guide for July 2014

Night sky guide for July 2014

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July is the month when meteor activity starts to increase and continues into August. Several minor meteor showers during July and average Delta Aquarids on July 28/29 will introduce us to Perseids (August), one of the strongest meteor displays of the year. 2014 should be a great year for Delta Aquarids because the thin crescent moon will set early in the evening leaving dark skies for what should be a good show.

Comets Jacques and Catalina will reach their perihelion on July 3rd and 6th, respectively.

The later half of July is among the most enjoyable times of the year to enjoy a meteor display because of several minor meteor showers that mostly emanate from the constellations of Capricornus and Aquarius. After midnight on almost any day during the last half of July it is possible to see anywhere from 15 to 30 meteors per hour.

  • July 1 - Pi Piscids (PPI) meteor shower. A new source of activity discovered by Dr. Peter Brown and his Canadian Meteor Orbit Radar (CMOR) team. Activity is found from this source throughout June and July with maximum activity occurring on July 1st. It is one of the strongest sources of meteors during late June and early July. The radiant is currently located at 00:56 (014) +24. This area of the sky is located on the Pisces/Andromeda border, where the 4th magnitude star Eta Andromeda resides. The radiant is best placed near 0300 LDT when it lies on the meridian and is highest in the sky. Rates at this time should be near two per hour as seen from the northern hemisphere and one per hour as seen from south of the equator. With an entry velocity of 69 km/s., the average Pi Piscid meteor would be of swift velocity. (AMS)

  • July 3 - Comet C/2014 E2 (Jacques) at perihelion. Comet C/2014 E2 (Jacques) is forecast to reach its brightest, at around mag 10.2. It will lie at a distance of 0.67 AU from the Sun, and at a distance of 1.57 AU from the Earth. (ITS)

  • July 4 - Pluto at opposition. Across much of the world Pluto will be well placed for observation, in the constellation Sagittarius. It will be visible for much of the night, reaching its highest point in the sky at around midnight local time.

  • July 6 - C/2013 UQ4 (Catalina) at perihelion. Comet C/2013 UQ4 (Catalina) is forecast to reach its brightest, at around mag 11.3. It will lie at a distance of 1.08 AU from the Sun, and at a distance of 0.31 AU from the Earth. (ITS)

  • July 6 - Occultation of Mars by the Moon. The Moon will pass in front of Mars.  At the moment of closest approach, the Moon will be at mag -11.9, and Mars at mag -0.4, both in the constellation Virgo. At closest approach, the pair will be close enough to fit comfortably within the field of view of a telescope, but will also be visible to the naked eye or a through pair of binoculars.

  • July 10 - C-Andromedids (CAN) meteor shower. It was discovered by Sirko Molau and Juergen Rendtel using video data from the IMO network. Activity from this source is seen from June 26 though July 20 with maximum activity occurring on July 10. The radiant currently lies at 01:12 (018) +42, which places it in northern Andromeda, just five degrees east of the naked eye Andromeda Galaxy. This area of the sky is best seen during the last dark hour before dawn when the radiant lies highest in a dark sky. Observers in the northern hemisphere are better situated to view this activity as the radiant rises much higher in the sky before dawn as seen from northern latitudes. Current rates would be 1-2 shower members as seen from the northern hemisphere before dawn and less than one per hour for observers situated south of the equator. With an entry velocity of 60 km/s, the average meteor from this source would be of swift velocity. (AMS)

  • July 12 - Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 11:25 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Buck Moon because the male buck deer would begin to grow their new antlers at this time of year. This moon has also been known as the Full Thunder Moon and the Full Hay Moon.

  • July 21 - Alpha Cygnid meteor shower. Some shooting stars from this meteor shower will be visible each night from July to August, but the best show will be expected on or around July 21, 2014. The maximum number of meteors expected to be visible from a dark location is around 5 per hour (ZHR). The Moon will be 24 days old at the time of peak activity, and so will present minimal interference.

  • July 26 - New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 22:42 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

  • July 28, 29 - Delta Aquarids meteor shower. The Delta Aquarids is an average shower that can produce up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by debris left behind by comets Marsden and Kracht. The shower runs annually from July 12 to August 23. It peaks this year on the night of July 28 and morning of July 29. This should be a great year for this shower because the thin crescent moon will set early in the evening leaving dark skies for what should be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but can appear anywhere in the sky. (SeaSky)

Video courtesy of Hubble Space Telescope

Featured image: Solar System Scope / The Watchers

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