2018-07-01 / Stargazing

Mars: What a bright idea for July

For July 2018, the waning gibbous moon passes north of Mars in the morning sky on July 1.

Look how bright Mars appears this morning. The earth is overtaking Mars, making it much closer, bigger and brighter than it appears normally.

The moon is third quarter on July 6 and new on July 12. This new moon does pass in front of the sun, but only in Australia is a partial solar eclipse seen.

Forty minutes after sunset on July 14, the very slender crescent moon passes just above Mercury in the southwest twilight; binocs are recommended. The next evening gives a great photo op, with the crescent moon passing just north of Venus in the evening sky.

The moon is first quarter on July 19. The waxing gibbous moon passes just north of Saturn on July 24. The full moon, the Thunder Moon, is again north of much brighter Mars on July 27.

Mars is at opposition on July 26, the closest and brightest it has been since August 2003. And the full moon is totally eclipsed, as well, but only for the eastern hemisphere, alas. Quite a month for stargazers.

Our featured photo is by EAAA member Tom Haugh. Earlier in June, when Mars was still gibbous in phase, the south polar cap was prominent at the bottom of the disk and the dark feature Syrtis major was in the center of the disk. Our featured photo is by EAAA member Tom Haugh. Earlier in June, when Mars was still gibbous in phase, the south polar cap was prominent at the bottom of the disk and the dark feature Syrtis major was in the center of the disk. This July, Mercury is visible in the southwest twilight below Venus early in the month, with greatest elongation on July 11. Before it passes between us and the sun, try first spotting it low in the southwest, then view much brighter Venus above it. Next, turn to spot bright Jupiter in Libra in the south and, farther east, Saturn above the teapot of Sagittarius.

Mars in Capricornus will be rising in the southeast just before Mercury sets. It is very rare to have all naked eye planets visible at once.

Venus dominates the western evening sky and should be easily found in daylight on July 15, with the crescent moon guide to the lower left of it just before sunset. Telescopically, it is a gibbous bright disk — 70 percent sunlight now. No other details are noted with amateur scopes, alas.

Mars is in Capricornus. Telescopically, the south polar cap is the easiest feature to see, but it is shrinking daily. Opposition is on July 26, so this is the best time to observe the red planet since 2003. Since Mars is so small, even when fully lit at opposition on July 26, use your highest power and hope for steady seeing to spot detail during the next few months.

Jupiter is well placed for evening observers in Libra. It was at opposition on May 5 and is now well up in the southeast as twilight falls. Any small scope will also spot its four Galilean moons.

The Great Red Spot is unusually red now and should also be spotted among its clouds at 100X with even small scopes. But the most beautiful object in the sky is Saturn, which came to opposition in Sagittarius on June 27.

It is not quite as open as last year. Look closely for its large moon, Titan, and also perhaps for smaller moons Dione, Rhea and Tethys.

Download the program Stellarium at www.stellarium.org and you can zoom in on the planets to find the layout of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn at any moment.

If you drop south from the bowl of the Big Dipper, Leo the Lion is in the southwest.

Note the Egyptian Sphinx is based on the shape of this lion in the sky.

Taking the arc in the Dipper’s handle, we “arc” southeast to bright orange Arcturus, the brightest star of spring.

It is cooler than our yellow sun and much poorer in heavy elements. Some believe its strange motion reveals it to be an invading star from another smaller galaxy, now colliding with the Milky Way in Sagittarius in the summer sky.

Download the

July Evening Sky Map at skymaps.com for a list of the best objects to view with the naked eye, binoculars & scopes


by the Escambia Amateur Astronomers begin at sunset and run ‘til 10 p.m.

Gulfside Pavillion Pensacola Beach Friday V July 20th & Saturday V July 21st

Sidewalk astronomy under the first quarter moon; these feature the waxing moon in the evening sky as well.

Battery Worth on Ft. Pickens Picnic Area Friday V July 13th

Gazes set for Friday’s nearest the new moon.

Big Lagoon State Park Saturday V July 7th

(near the observation tower)

For more information on the Escambia Amateur Astronomers, find us on Facebook at “Escambia Amateur Astronomers,” visit our website at www.eaaa.net or call our sponsor,

Lauren Rogers at Pensacola State at (850) 484-1155 or lrogers@pensacolastate.edu.

Join them on Facebook at

Escambia Amateur Astronomers Association.

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