Star chart for 15th July at 8.00 pm
Those nights highlighted yellow are the best for viewing stars in the evening when the moon is a thin crescent or rises late.
Information on moon phases and times of sunrise and sunset can be accessed for any time of the year from Information on the drop down menu at the top of the page.
Mercury passes between the Sun and Earth (inferior conjunction) on the 9th and reappears in the dawn light towards the end of the month. It approaches its maximum elongation from the Sun on the 30th with a magnitude close to 0.
Venus remains in the evening sky throughout the month increasing its elongation from the Sun from 25 to 32 degrees though still low in the sky because of the low angle of the ecliptic. Watch the planet on the 21st when it passes by the star Regulus in Leo.
Mars is now in the morning sky rising about an hour and a quarter at the beginning of the month and two hours and a quarter by the end. Its magnitude, however, is weak at 1.9. The best night to view it will be the 22nd when it passes close by Jupiter and its colour can be compared with that of the larger and brighter planet.
Jupiter also appears in the morning sky, rising about half an hour before the Sun at the beginning of the month and two hours and a half at the end of the month. Although its position low in the sky will mean atmospheric turbulence will obscure some of the detail through a telescope, the dance of it circling moons can be appreciated.
Saturn remains in Virgo and can be seen clearly towards the South in the early evening sky with a magnitude of 0.6.
This is the month to view Scorpio, the finest of the constellations of the Zodiac. It looks like a scorpion tooled up to kill with flashing claws, bright sting and a red beating heart (Antares).
It’s also part of Gould’s Belt, a massive ring of stars produced by collision between our galaxy and an extra-galactic gas cloud that triggered a cosmic cascade of stellar condensations and super-nova explosions.
For more information, go to the Star Blog: Scorpio and Gould’s Belt
Two meteor showers peak on the 30th, the Alpha Capricornides (about 5 an hour) and the Delta Aquarides (about 16 an hour). The gibbous moon however will spoil the viewing but the period of activity continues at a lower rate for another couple of weeks.
Its ironic that during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer, our planet reaches its furthest distance from the Sun. It’s hot because we are tilted towards the Sun, not because we are near it. Aphelion occurs on the 5th July.