January/February 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 4

Celestial Highlights for July 2013

Posted: Monday, July 1st, 2013

by Robert Victor and Robert D. Miller

At dusk: In July 2013, the brilliant evening “star” Venus gleams low in evening twilight, drifting from WNW to W as month progresses.

On our evening all-sky chart, planets are plotted for each day when the Sun has sunk to 9° below the horizon, at “mid-twilight”. By then, the two naked-eye planets and eight stars of first magnitude or brighter are easily visible, except for Pollux and Regulus sinking in the twilight glow. In July, from Palm Springs, Los Angeles, and other places near latitude 34° N, mid-twilight occurs about 45 minutes after sunset. From northernmost California in July, it takes six minutes longer for the sky to fade to the same level.

Planet positions are represented by a separate dot for each date, with positions for each Monday in July (1, 8, 15, 22, 29) represented by a larger dot and labeled. We find Venus and Regulus in the western sky this month. Rotate the chart until the portion of the horizon circle nearest the pair is at bottom, and you’ll see planet and star depicted at the same orientation as they appear in the W to WNW sky: Regulus 25° upper left of Venus on July 1, to 12° lower right of Venus on July 31.

On the chart, the stars’ daily positions are plotted not as individual dots, but instead by continuous tracks as the stars drift west (counter-clockwise around the North Star) in the course of the month, owing to the Earth’s revolution around the Sun.

Another planet is present on July evenings: Saturn, tracking from S to SW in mid-twilight as July progresses. Notice the first-magnitude star Spica 12° to the west (lower right) of brighter Saturn all month, the blue-white twinkling star preceding the steady yellowish planet as both objects go westward across the sky.

The brightest star in July’s evening sky is Arcturus, high in SSW to WSW, above Saturn and Spica and forming a large triangle with them. When the Big Dipper becomes visible, you can “follow the arc (of the handle) to Arcturus and drive a spike to Spica.”

Next after Arcturus in brilliance is Vega, climbing high in ENE. Compare the contrasting colors of these two stars! To Vega’s lower left is Deneb, and to their lower right is Altair, completing the Summer Triangle. Climbing in SSE to S is reddish Antares, heart of the Scorpion.

Binoculars may help you spot Pollux early in month, 13° lower right of Venus on July 1. Within a few days, Pollux vanishes into the solar glare.

Find Regulus, heart of Leo, the Lion, within 5° of Venus during July 18-25. They appear closest on the evenings of July 22 (1.2° apart), and July 23 (1.3°). Sinking lower nightly, Regulus will pass on the far side of the Sun on August 22.

During July 10-23, the Moon is above the horizon in evening mid-twilight. Follow it nightly as it waxes, or grows, from a thin crescent on July 10, through First Quarter (half full) on July 15, to Full on July 22. The Moon passes, in order, Venus on July 10th, Regulus on the 11th, Spica on the 15th, Saturn on the 16th, and Antares on the night of July 18th.

This selection of diagrams from the Abrams Planetarium Sky Calendar illustrates the Moon’s changing position against background stars in July, and the changing arrangements of Venus-Regulus at dusk and Mars-Jupiter-Mercury at dawn. For information on subscribing to Sky Calendar, visit www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/SkyCalendar/.

Source: Abrams Planetarium A 1-year subscription to the Abrams Sky Calendar consists of 4 quarterly mailings of three calendars each. The quarters begin with February, May, August, and November issues. Cost: $11. http://www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/SkyCalendar/Index.html

Source: Abrams Planetarium
A 1-year subscription to the Abrams Sky Calendar consists of 4 quarterly mailings of three calendars each. The quarters begin with February, May, August, and November issues. Cost: $11.
http://www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/SkyCalendar/Index.html

Source: Abrams Planetarium A 1-year subscription to the Abrams Sky Calendar consists of 4 quarterly mailings of three calendars each. The quarters begin with February, May, August, and November issues. Cost: $11. http://www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/SkyCalendar/Index.html

Source: Abrams Planetarium
A 1-year subscription to the Abrams Sky Calendar consists of 4 quarterly mailings of three calendars each. The quarters begin with February, May, August, and November issues. Cost: $11.
http://www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/SkyCalendar/Index.html

Source: Abrams Planetarium A 1-year subscription to the Abrams Sky Calendar consists of 4 quarterly mailings of three calendars each. The quarters begin with February, May, August, and November issues. Cost: $11. http://www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/SkyCalendar/Index.html

Source: Abrams Planetarium
A 1-year subscription to the Abrams Sky Calendar consists of 4 quarterly mailings of three calendars each. The quarters begin with February, May, August, and November issues. Cost: $11.
http://www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/SkyCalendar/Index.html

July21

Source: Abrams Planetarium
A 1-year subscription to the Abrams Sky Calendar consists of 4 quarterly mailings of three calendars each. The quarters begin with February, May, August, and November issues. Cost: $11.
http://www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/SkyCalendar/Index.html

July28-30

Source: Abrams Planetarium
A 1-year subscription to the Abrams Sky Calendar consists of 4 quarterly mailings of three calendars each. The quarters begin with February, May, August, and November issues. Cost: $11.
http://www.pa.msu.edu/abrams/SkyCalendar/Index.html

Dawn: Our all-sky chart for morning mid-twilight depicts the sky about 45 minutes before sunrise in southern California. The Summer Triangle of Vega-Deneb-Altair is high in the western sky at dawn, and lower as month progresses. During all of July, the Summer Triangle is up all night.

Bright Jupiter emerges by end of first week, low in ENE to lower left of faint mag. +1.6 Mars. To their upper left, find bright Capella, the “Mother Goat” star, in NE, higher as month progresses. To upper right of Jupiter is reddish Aldebaran, eye of Taurus the Bull, with the compact Pleiades star cluster or Seven Sisters (not shown), 14° higher. Fomalhaut, mouth of the Southern Fish, drifts from S to SSW. By July’s fourth week, Betelgeuse and Rigel, shoulder and foot of Orion, the Hunter, rise from the dawn glow into the eastern sky. (Orion’s belt, a nearly vertical line of three stars midway between them, isn’t plotted.) Farther north and lower is Pollux, with Castor, the other Gemini Twin, not plotted, 4½° above.

Faint reddish Mars and bright yellowish Jupiter appear no more than 5° apart July 11-August 1, and as close as 0.8° apart on July 22. By July 25 Mercury has emerged as a first-magnitude “star” to their lower left, and brightening to mag. 0 by month’s end.

The waning crescent Moon in the morning sky passes near the Pleiades star cluster on July 4 and 31, near Aldebaran on July 5 and August 1, near Mars and Jupiter on July 6 and August 3-4, and near Mercury on August 5.

Robert D. Miller did graduate work in Planetarium Science and later astronomy and computer science at Michigan State University and remains active in research and public outreach in astronomy.

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.

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