What's Up in the Night Sky?

July 2014 - Vol. 18, No. 7

Astra's Star Gate

This Month's Night Sky - NOTE: The next paragraph describes the sky as it appears at 10 pm EST (11 pm EDT) near mid- month. The sky also looks this way at 11 pm EST (midnight EDT) during the beginning of the month and at 9 pm EST (10 pm EDT) by month's end.

Bright blue-white Vega (Lyra) shines high overhead as it "leads" the Summer Triangle across the night sky. The "Triangle" is the summer’s most prominent asterism and is made up of three stars: Vega, the brightest, Denab (Cygnus) and Altair (Aquila). In the SW, Arcturus (Bootes) is dropping towards the horizon as Spica (Virgo) vanishes from sight below. Also look for Antares (Scorpius) low in the SW. The stars of constellations Scorpius and Sagittarius, embedded in the "Milky Way" (part of one of the spiral “arms” of our galaxy), are at their best this month. Look for another famous asterism, "the teapot" (Sagittarius). The "Great Square of Pegasus" asterism, now appears on the E horizon just before the onset of morning twilight. These are the stars of autumn that will take over when the northern summer wanes!

MERCURY is in the morning sky for the most of the month. VENUS rises 2 hours before the Sun. Our sister planet will become more difficult to observe as she approaches superior conjunction later in the year. Venus will be joined by Mercury in the early morning sky and in the second week of the month. JUPITER will be in conjunction with the Sun on the 24th, catch the giant planet in the early evening the first week or so this month. MARS also marching closer to the sun, will be in conjunction with first magnitude Spica on the 12th. SATURN sets after midnight.

Review how to determine Angular Measurement.

Calendar of Events

NOTE: For those observers not in the ET zone, convert the calendar times to your zone's time by subtracting one hour for CT, two for MT and three for PT. Don't forget to adjust for Daylight Savings Time when necessary by subtracting one hour from your planisphere's time. Dawn and dusk times must also be corrected. See your local newspaper, TV news, or cable TV's Weather Channel for sunrise and sunset times. Unfortunately some of these events may occur during daylight hours in your area.

02 Venus 4 deg N. of Aldebaran.
04 Earth is at aphelion, making its closest approach to the Sun.
06 Mars .2 deg S. of the Moon, occultation from Hawaii and some parts of South and Central America.. Spica 1.8 deg S. of the Moon.
07 Saturn .6 deg N. of the Moon, occultation in French Polynesia, the tip of South America, South Georgia and Sandwich Islands.
13 Moon at perigee may cause large tides.
13 Mars 1.2 N of Spica for a fine conjunction, compare the difference of their colors at your location. Look for Venus and Mercury to line up with Aldebaran about 50 minutes before sunrise. Take care observing the inner planets when they are near the Sun.
16 Mercury at 6.2 deg E. of Venus.
22 Aldebaran 1.8 deg. of Moon.

Jupiter in conjunction with the Sun will not be visible until next month.

24 Venus 4 deg N. of the Moon. Mercury should also appear nearby. Watch the morning sky for the next few days and see where these solar system objects appear in relationship to each other. The waning moon may exhibit earthshine, adding to the beauty of this display. The first magnitude star Betelguese of Orion begins to appear in the early evening. How well can you see it in the twilight sky?
28 Delta Aquarid meteor shower peak, 20 meteors per hour. The Moon is at apogee.
29 Regulus 4.7 deg N. of Moon.

Lunar Almanac for July 2014

Phases of the Moon Phase and Date(s) Best viewed before local midnight
new moon New
Deep Space Objects
first quarter moon 1st. Qtr
Planets & Moon
full moon Full
last quarter moon Last Qtr
Deep Space & Planets

Canes Venatici: Dogs of the Northern Sky

The northern sky is a dark place, far from the bright star clouds of the Milky Way. Here be dragons, bears and hunters. The northern hunters also brought their hunting dogs, in the form of a little constellation known as Canes Venatici. This constellation was introduced by Johnnes Hevelius in 1690. Visually, the constellation appears to the naked eye as two stars beneath the the handle of the "Big Dipper", the brighter of the two is known as Cor Coroli, or heart of the king. It is a 2.9 magnitude star accompanied by a 5.5 magnitude companion located about 150 light years away. This double star is very easy to detect in a small telescopeThe fainter star is called Chara, a yellow 4.3 magnitude star.

finder chart for Canes Venatici

Canes Venatici is near the north galactic pole of the Milky Way, far from the star clouds of the Milky Way. Because of its position, it is the home of many external galaxies, the brightest Messier galaxies can be located by using the finder chart above. The most famous galaxy in this part of the sky is known as M51,also known as the Whirlpool galaxy is actually a pair of interacting galaxies (NGC 5194 and 5195) that are best observed in a larger telescope, 10 inches or better. Its spiral structure was first observed by Lord Rosse using a 72-in telescope in 1845. At mag .78 it is bright enough to be seen by smaller instruments, even binoculars, but it will appear as a fuzzy patch.

M63, near an 8th mag star is tilted about 30 deg from face on, is sometimes called the Sunflower nebula. Another bright galaxy in Canes Venatici is M94, another face on spiral. this galaxy has a large central bulge and is tightly wound and will appear as a round object at a dark site. The last Messier galaxy on this chart, M106 is also a Seyfert galaxy, that emits x-rays.

Another feature of Canes Venatici is the globular star cluster M3, that is not seen in the chart above that was generated by Stellarium, a free open source planetarium program. The above image was created by Dawn Jenkins, using Stellarium and a graphic editing program to format the image for this web page. Editing was done for educational purposes only. The globular M3 is found on a line between Cor Coroli and Arcturus.

The dark galactic pole must share the night with the star clouds of the northern Milky Way, that rise into the night sky just before midnight at the beginning of the month.. The bright presence of those clouds of galactic stars and dust will make it hard to find the dark galaxies of Spring as we move into Summer.

--See You Under the Stars!
Astra for Astra's Almanac

This installment of "Whats Up?" is ©2014 by Dawn Jenkins for Astra's Stargate. View Ron Leeseburg's Farewell Issue for information on where to find information such as is presented in this almanac.