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Tuesday, July 26, 2011


The Sky This Week - Thursday July 28 to Thursday August 4

The New Moon is Sunday July 31. This is the second New Moon this month. Jupiter is high in the morning sky. Mars leaves the horns of Taurus the Bull. The Moon visits Mars on the 28th and Mercury on August 1. Saturn is drawing away from the star Porrima, gamma Virginis. The Southern Delta Aquariids Meteor shower peaks on the mornings of July 29 and 30.

Morning sky looking north-east as seen from Adelaide at 6:30 am local time on Monday August 1 showing the Moon, Jupiter, Mars and the constellations. Mars is close to the "Horns" of the constellation Taurus, the Bull. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time. Click to embiggen.

The New Moon is Sunday July 31. This is the second New Moon this month, so you can think of it as a "Blue" New Moon.

In the morning Jupiter is high above the north-eastern sky. Mars is low in the eastern sky, between the stars that form the "horns" of the Taurus the bull. During the week Mars pulls away from Elnath and Zeta Tauri, the stars that define the horns. On Thursday July 28 the crescent Moon is near Mars.

After dominating the morning sky for months, bright white Venus is now lost in the twilight glow.

Evening sky on Monday August 1 looking west as seen from Adelaide at 6:15 pm local time in South Australia showing the crescent Moon, Mercury and the bright star Regulus forming a tiangle in the early twilight sky. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

After giving us a nice show, Mercury begins to leave the evening sky. Mercury starts the week close to the bright star Regulus, and on Monday August 1 the thin crescent Moon, Mercury and Regulus form a nice triangle in the early evening sky. However, you will need a fairly clear, level horizon to see this massing to its best.

Saturn is readily visible as the bright yellowish object not far from the bright star Spica. It is getting lower in the sky, and the window for telescopic observation is narrower. Saturn is still close to the star Porrima (gamma Virginis). They are moving apart, but are still reasonably close together.

Even in small telescopes you can see Saturn's rings and it's moon Titan. Despite being past opposition, when Saturn was at its biggest, Saturn is still big and beautiful.

If you don't have a telescope, now is a good time to visit one of your local astronomical societies open nights or the local planetariums.

The location of Vesta as seen at 8:30 pm on July 23rd looking east from Adelaide, similar views will be seen at equivalent local times elsewhere. Click to embiggen,

The asteroid Vesta is becoming brighter and is now readily visible in binoculars and is just over the threshold of unaided eye visibility (magnitude 5.8). To see it with the unaided eye you will need to be in a dark sky location though.

Vesta is now roughly between two relatively bright stars, zeta Capricorni and 24 Capricorni, making it very easy to find. Zeta Capricorni is the fourth star up and to the right of the brightest star in Capricornus (see image to left) and 24 Cap is the 5th. Vesta moves significantly night to night, so will be easy to follow. A chart showing Vesta's location is here.

The mornings of 29 and 30 July are the peak of the Southern Delta Aquarids. A reasonable meteor shower, if you look east from 10 pm on, you should see meteors Tthe best rates will be at 3 am in the morning (see here for a link to a map) when we should see around a meteor every 4 minutes .

Use the NASA meteor shower flux estimator for an estimate of what the shower will be like from your location. You need to choose 5 Southern Delta Aquariids and remember to set the date to 28-29 July 0r 29-30 July 2011.

Printable PDF maps of the Eastern sky at 10 pm ADST, Western sky at 10 pm ADST. For further details and more information on what's up in the sky, see Southern Skywatch.

Cloud cover predictions can be found at SkippySky.


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