The July Night Sky
See what’s up in the night sky for June 2019, including stargazing events and the moon’s phases, in this Space.com gallery courtesy of Starry Night Software.
Visible only for a short time before sunrise on Monday, July 1, the very slim, old crescent moon will be positioned 6.5 degrees to the upper right (southwest) of the bright planet Venus. Both objects will be very low in the east-northeastern sky and surrounded by morning twilight.
Tuesday, July 2 at 19:16 GMT — New Moon and Total Solar Eclipse
At its new phase, the moon is traveling between Earth and the sun. Since sunlight is only reaching the far side of the moon, and the moon is in the same region of the sky as the sun, the moon becomes completely hidden from view. This new moon will feature a total solar eclipse visible inside a narrow path that crosses the southern Pacific Ocean and southern South America. A partial eclipse will be seen across most of the southern Pacific Ocean (almost reaching the coast of Antarctica) and most of South America. The period of totality will reach a maximum of 4m33s in the South Pacific, about 1,080 kilometers north of Easter Island at 19:22:57.9 GMT. The first landfall for the moon’s shadow will occur on the Chilean coast, 50 kilometers north of La Serena, at 20:39 GMT, when totality will last for 2m36s and the sun will be at 14° altitude in the sky. The eclipse will end near the coast of Argentina, just south of Buenos Aires.
Wednesday, July 3 after sunset – Young Moon Meets Mars and Mercury
After sunset on Wednesday, July 3, the young crescent moon will be positioned less than 3 degrees to the lower right (west) of Mars and 5.5 degrees to the right of Mercury. The trio will fit within the field of view of binoculars (red circle) and set by 10 p.m. local time. Observers in the eastern tip of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, most of Asia, and Micronesia will see the moon occult Mars.
Thursday, July 4 at 22:00 GMT — Earth at Aphelion
On Thursday, July 4, Earth will reach aphelion, its maximum distance from the sun for this year. The aphelion distance of 94,511,180 miles (152.1 million km) is 1.67% farther from the sun than the mean Earth-sun separation of 92,955,807.3 miles (149,597,870.7 km), which is also defined to be 1 Astronomical Unit (1 AU). Earth’s perihelion (minimum distance from the sun) will occur on January 4.
Thursday, July 4 from 10:36 p.m. to 12:48 a.m. EDT — GRS and Io’s Shadow on Jupiter
From time to time, the little round, black shadows cast by Jupiter’s four Galilean moons become visible in backyard telescopes as they cross (or transit) the planet’s disk. On Thursday, July 4 from 10:36 p.m. to 12:48 a.m. EDT, observers in the Eastern half of North America can watch Io’s shadow transit Jupiter. As a bonus, the Great Red Spot will be crossing the planet from dusk until approximately 11 p.m.
Saturday, July 6 after sunset — Mercury Sinks Past Mars
For about an hour after sunset on the evenings surrounding Saturday, July 6, Mercury’s orbital motion towards the sun will bring it less than 4 degrees to the lower left (south) of Mars. The two planets will be very low in the north-northwestern sky, embedded in twilight. Take care that the sun has completely disappeared below the horizon before attempting to search for them with binoculars or telescopes.
Tuesday, July 9 at 10:55 GMT — First Quarter Moon
After the moon has completed the first quarter of its orbit around Earth, the relative positions of the Earth, sun, and moon cause us to see the moon half-illuminated — on its eastern side. At first quarter the moon always rises around noon and sets around midnight, so it is also visible in the afternoon daytime sky. The evenings around first quarter are the best times to see the lunar terrain while it is dramatically lit by low-angled sunlight.
Tuesday, July 9 all night — Saturn at Opposition
On Tuesday, July 9 at 1 p.m. EDT, Earth’s orbit will carry us between Saturn and the sun. Sitting opposite the sun in the sky on that date, Saturn will rise at sunset and arrive at its minimum separation from Earth of 9.0 AU (839,472 miles or 1,351 million km), or 75 light-minutes. Saturn will shine at a maximum brightness of magnitude +0.05, and exhibit an apparent disk diameter of 18.4 arc-seconds. The rings, which will be narrowing every year until the spring of 2025, will subtend 42.86 arc-seconds across. For the next several oppositions, Saturn will remain fairly low in a summertime sky.
Saturday, July 13 overnight — Waxing Moon near Jupiter
In the southern sky on the evening of Saturday, July 13, the waxing gibbous moon will land to the left (east) of the bright planet Jupiter. If you watch the pair over several hours, starting at dusk, you will see the moon’s orbit carry it farther from the planet and the rotation of the sky lift the moon above Jupiter.
Sunday, July 14 all night — Pluto at Opposition
On Sunday, July 14, the dim and distant dwarf planet Pluto will reach opposition, the day of the year when Earth moves between it and the sun. On this date, Pluto will be the closest to Earth (3.05 billion miles, 4.91 billion km, or 273 light-minutes) and reach its greatest visual magnitude (+14.2) for 2019. Pluto will rise in the east at sunset and reach its highest elevation, over the southern horizon, at 1:20 a.m. local time. While Pluto is far too dim to see in amateur-grade telescopes, your astronomy app can show you where it is compared to the brighter nearby stars. Even if you can’t see it directly, you will know that Pluto is there.
Monday, July 15 all night — Bright Moon near Saturn
When the bright, nearly full moon rises over the southeastern horizon at 8:30 p.m. local time on Monday evening, July 15, the bright, yellowish planet Saturn will be positioned 2.5 degrees to the left (east) of it. The pair will cross the sky together during the night and will easily fit within the field of binoculars (red circle). If you watch the pair over several hours, starting at dusk, you will see the moon’s orbit carry it closer to the planet and the rotation of the sky lift Saturn above the moon. Observers in eastern Melanesia, southern Polynesia, Easter Island, and central South America will see the moon occult Saturn.