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Night sky guide for July 2015

night-sky-guide-for-july-2015

A spectacular conjunction of Venus and Jupiter will be visible on July 1 with the two planets appearing extremely close, only 0.3 degrees apart.

Several weak meteor showers this month will set stage for Perseids, one of the most popular annual meteor showers expected to reach its peak on August 13. 

The first full moon of the month falls on July 2, this full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Buck Moon. This moon has also been known as the Full Thunder Moon and the Full Hay Moon.

The Delta Aquarids are scheduled for July 28 and 29. This is an average meteor shower usually producing up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. Unfortunately, the nearly full moon will block out all but the brightest meteors this year.

  • July 1 – Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter. A spectacular conjunction of Venus and Jupiter will be visible in the evening sky. The two bright planets will be extremely close, appearing only 0.3 degrees apart. Look for this impressive pairing in the western sky just after sunset.

  • July 1 – M22 is well placed. The globular cluster M22 in Sagittarius, near the Galactic center, will be well placed for observation. It will reach its highest point in the sky at around midnight local time. At a declination of -23°54', it is easiest to see from the southern hemisphere and cannot be seen from latitudes much north of 46°N. At magnitude 5.1, M22 is too faint to be seen with the naked eye from any but the very darkest sites, but is visible through a pair of binoculars or small telescope.

  • July 2 – Full Moon – 02:19 UTC. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated. 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 2 – IC 4756 well placed. The open star cluster IC 4756 in Serpens will be well placed for observation. It will reach its highest point in the sky at around midnight local time. At a declination of +05°27', it is visible across much of the world; it can be seen at latitudes between 75°N and 64°S. At magnitude 5.0, IC 4756 is too faint to be seen with the naked eye from any but the very darkest sites, but is visible through a pair of binoculars or small telescope.

  • July 6 – 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. Over the weeks following its opposition, Pluto will reach its highest point in the sky four minutes earlier each night, gradually receding from the pre-dawn morning sky while remaining visible in the evening sky for a few months.

  • July 6 – C/2014 Q1 (PANSTARRS) at perihelion. Comet C/2014 Q1 (PANSTARRS) will make its closest approach to the Sun, at a distance of 0.32 AU. For more information about its path across the sky, see In-The-Sky.org's ephemeris page for comet C/2014 Q1 (PANSTARRS).

  • July 7 – C/2014 Q1 (PANSTARRS) reaches its brightest. Comet C/2014 Q1 (PANSTARRS) is forecast to reach its brightest, at around mag 3.8. It will lie at a distance of 0.32 AU from the Sun, and at a distance of 1.25 AU from the Earth.

  • July 9 – Conjunction between the Moon and Uranus. The Moon and Uranus will make a close approach, passing within 0°44' of each other. At the moment of closest approach, the Moon will be at mag -11.9, and Uranus at mag 5.8, both in the constellation Pisces. The pair will be a little too widely separated to fit comfortably within the field of view of a telescope, but will be visible to the naked eye or a through pair of binoculars.

  • July 10 – NGC 6752 well placed. Across much of the world the bright globular cluster NGC 6752 in Pavo will be well placed for observation. It will reach its highest point in the sky at around midnight local time. At a declination of -59°58', it is easiest to see from the southern hemisphere and cannot be seen from latitudes much north of 10°N.

  • July 16 – New Moon – 01:24 UTC. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. 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 17 – M55 is well placed. Across much of the world the globular cluster M55 (NGC 6809) in Sagittarius will be well placed for observation. It will reach its highest point in the sky at around midnight local time. At a declination of -30°58', it is easiest to see from the southern hemisphere and cannot be seen from latitudes much north of 39°N. At magnitude 7.0, M55 is quite faint, and certainly not visible to the naked eye, but can be viewed through a pair of binoculars or small telescope.

  • July 21 – Alpha Cygnid meteor shower. The α–Cygnid meteor shower will reach its maximum rate of activity on July 21, 2015. Some shooting stars associated with the shower are expected to be visible each night from July to August. The maximum rate of meteors expected to be visible from a dark location is around 5 per hour (ZHR). The Moon will be 5 days old at the time of peak activity, and so will present minimal interference.

  • July 21 – C/2015 F4 (Jacques) reaches its brightest. Comet C/2015 F4 (Jacques) is forecast to reach its brightest, at around mag 12.6. It will lie at a distance of 1.67 AU from the Sun, and at a distance of 0.76 AU from the Earth. For more information about its path across the sky, see In-The-Sky.org's ephemeris page for comet C/2015 F4 (Jacques).

  • July 23 – Mercury at superior solar conjunction. From our vantage point on the Earth, Mercury will appear very close to the Sun in the sky as it passes around the far side of the Solar System from the Earth. At closest approach, Mercury and the Sun will appear at a separation of only 1°36', making Mercury totally unobservable for several weeks while it is lost in the Sun's glare. Mercury will also pass apogee – the time when it is most distant from the Earth – within a few days of the same time, since it will lie exactly opposite to the Earth in the Solar System. It will move to a distance of 1.34 AU from the Earth, making it appear small and very distant. If it could be observed, it would measure 5.0 arcsec in diameter, whilst appearing completely illuminated. Mercury's reaching superior conjunction marks the end of its apparition in the morning sky and its transition to become an evening object over the next few weeks.

  • July 25 – Ceres at opposition. Across much of the world Ceres 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. Over the weeks following its opposition, Ceres will reach its highest point in the sky four minutes earlier each night, gradually receding from the pre-dawn morning sky while remaining visible in the evening sky for a few months.

  • July 26 – Conjunction between the Moon and Saturn. The Moon and Saturn will make a close approach, passing within 2°11' of each other. At the moment of closest approach, the Moon will be at mag -12.2, and Saturn at mag 0.9, both in the constellation Libra. The pair will be too widely separated to fit within the field of view of a telescope, but will be visible to the naked eye or through a pair of binoculars.

  • July 26-28 – Alpha Capricornid meteor shower. This meteor shower will be active from around July 11 – August 10, 2015. This shower is not very strong and rarely produces in excess of five shower members per hour. What is notable about this shower is the number of bright fireballs produced during its activity period. This shower is seen equally well on either side of the equator. The nearly full moon will block out all but the brightest meteors this year. The bulk of the dust from this meteor shower will not be in Earth's path until the 24th century. The Alpha Capricornids are expected to become a major annual storm in 2220 – 2420 A.D., one that is expected to be "stronger" than any current annual shower.

  • 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. The nearly full moon will block out all but the brightest meteors this year. But if you are patient, you should still be able to catch a quite few good ones. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

  • July 31 – Full Moon – 10:43 UTC. The Moon will be located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and its face will be will be fully illuminated.

  • July 31 – Piscis Australid meteor shower. The Piscis Australid meteor shower will reach its maximum rate of activity on July 31, 2015. Some shooting stars associated with the shower are expected to be visible each night from July 15 to August 20. The maximum rate of meteors expected to be visible from a dark location is around 5 per hour (ZHR). The Moon will be 15 days old at the time of peak activity, and being so close to Full Moon, will severely limit the observations that will be possible.

Video courtesy of Hubble Space Telescope

Sources: In The Sky, Sea Sky

Featured image credit: Hubble Space Telescope. Edit: TW.

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