Heads UP! For July 2010

Show your support for your local planets !

Not much darkness this time of year, but with Venus, Mars and Saturn lining up for you in the evening twilight, how can you not go out and see them!

After sunset face yourself toward where the bright twilight is leftover from the sunset earlier in the evening.  The planets are easiest to see about 9 to 10pm, after the sky gets a bit less bright and before the planets disappear over the horizon.  It helps to not have hills and trees in the western sky, as well.

Details on the planet lineup

Binoculars make viewing the planetary lineups more striking, but are not necessary!  First start with dazzling Venus.  Once the sun sets, it’s the brightest thing out there, unless the Moon is nearby or a bright aircraft comes along.  So pick out Venus and then move to its upper left. The next bright dot is much fainter, but gets easier to see as the sky gets dark.  For the first part of the month, that’s the first magnitude star Regulus.  Venus pushes past Regulus on the 8th and 9th (the pair are a pretty sight even by themselves).  Then, ruddy Mars is next, then Saturn.  By the end of the month, the spacing between the planets tightens up while the grouping moves lower in the western sky.  You may have to wait for the sky to darken a bit, but the close encounters are worth seeing and showing off to friends[1].

Waiting on Jupiter

The King of the planets is still sleeping late, and you have to stay up to midnight or get up super-early in the morning to see him.  I hear Jupiter is so bright, you can’t miss it.   I cheated and found Jupiter at 10:30am in the daytime (see bkellysky.wordpress.com for a photo).  The king will reign supreme in the evening sky starting in September.

Mercury Joins the Party

Anytime Mercury gets up from the horizon, it’s a good time to find it.  Look low to the right of Venus from mid-July through early August.  If you find Mercury, then it’s easy to see all five classical planets in one night.  Move up to Venus, Mars and Saturn (especially easy when they get close together – closest on August 8th!).  Then stay up for Jupiter to rise and you’ve done all the five planets that are easily visible to the unaided eye.

The Moon Swings By the Planets:

By Venus on the 14th – zoom in with your point and shoot for a nice photo!  Near Mars on the 15th, Saturn is on the right on the 16th.  Jupiter is near the moon after it rises after 11pm on the 30th.

Sunset Block Party in Manhattan on July 8th

See http://www.haydenplanetarium.org/resources/starstruck/manhattanhenge/ for details on the setting sun shining down the cross streets of Manhattan on July 8th.

See the International Space Station

Looking like a bright dot of light, the ISS soars over us on many evenings between now and July 14th.  In late June the ISS is in sunlight almost all the time, so it’s visible about every 90 minutes all night.  See nasa.gov or heavens-above.com or spaceweather.com for times for your location.

Two flights of the Space Transportation System remain!

STS-133 was planned for September, but may be moved to launch on October 28th or 29th.   STS-134 may be moved to February 2011.  There is a booster rocket set for another flight if NASA can get the funds for one additional flight.  The STS has been the major source of water and supplies for the ISS.

Chcck out http://www.westchesterastronomers.org/ for the July newsletter and come to the July 10th star show under the stars!


[1] Of course, less patient people may not believe you.  See my encounter with an inquiring mind at the June 16 entry on the Brightness of Venus folder at the unmannedspaceflight.com blog:

http://www.unmannedspaceflight.com/index.php?showtopic=4853&pid=161174&st=15&#entry161174

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