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Tuesday, July 22, 2014


The Sky This Week - Thursday July 24 to Thursday July 31

The New Moon is Sunday July 27. Jupiter is lost in the twilight. Mars and Saturn are prominent in the evening sky. Venus is prominent in the morning sky. The crescent Moon is close to Venus on the 25th, and Mercury on the 26th. A brightish comet may be glimpsed under good conditions low in the morning skies. The Southern Delta Aquariid meteor shower is on the 30th.

The New Moon is Sunday July 27. The Moon is at apogee, when it is furthest from the Earth, on the 28th.

Evening sky on Saturday July 26 looking north-west as seen from Adelaide at 22:00 (10:00 pm) ACST in South Australia. Mars and Spica are close together. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen). The insets show telescopic views of Mars and Saturn at this time,

Jupiter is lost in the twilight.

Mars  is easily seen in the north-western evening sky. It is highest in the sky around 18:00, setting after midnight. Mars was at opposition, when it is biggest and brightest, on the 9th of April, and is still  readily distinguishable as the bright red/orange object above the north-western horizon in the early evening. Mars is in the constellation of Virgo not far from the bright star Spica. Over the week it draws away from Spica heading towards Saturn.

Saturn is high in the evening sky, and was at opposition on June 11th. Saturn is visible most of the night. Saturn is high enough from around 8 pm for decent telescopic observation and sets around 2:00 am.  Saturn is in Libra near the head of the constellation of the Scorpion and forms a line with the two brightest stars of Libra.

Morning sky on Friday July 25 looking north-east as seen from Adelaide at 6:30 am ACST.  Venus forms a triangle with the bright red stars Aldebaran and Betelgeuse. The crescent Moon is close to Venus. Mercury is close to the horizon. Similar views will be seen throughout Australia at equivalent local times. (click to embiggen).

Venus is in the morning sky, above the north-eastern horizon.  The brightest object in the morning sky, it is easy to see and although it is past maximum brightness, it will dominate the early morning sky for some time to come.

Venus was at its furthest distance from the Sun on the 23rd of March, and is slowly sinking towards the horizon. Venus is a clear gibbous Moon shape in a telescope. Venus forms a triangle with the bright red stars Aldebaran and Betelgeuse. During the week Venus comes closer to the horizon. On the 25th the crescent Moon is close to Venus.

Mercury is rapidly sinking into the twilight and is now low above the morning horizon. The Moon is close to Mercury on the 26th, but you will need a clear level horizon to be able to see them.

Comet C/2014 E2 Jacques is bright enough (magnitude 6) to potentially be seen in binoculars, but it is low to the horizon, and the rapidly brightening sky this week soon overwhelms it. Look to the left of the bright star Elnath (the tip of the horn of Taurus the Bull) with strong binoculars (at least 10x50's) for a fuzzy dot in the very early twilight.

Evening sky looking east from Adelaide at 10 pm local time in South Australia. The cross marks the radiant  (the point where the meteors appear to originate from) of the Southern Delta Aquariids. Similar views will be seen elsewhere at the equivalent local time (click to embiggen).

The Southern Delta-Aquarids meteor shower runs from from 12 July to 23rd August, peaking on Wednesday July the 30th. The number of meteors you will see depends on how high the radiant is above the horizon, and how dark your sky is. This shower is fairly faint, with the highest rate of around a meteor every 4 minutes.

At 10 pm, face east, and look 4 hand spans and two finger widths above the horizon. One finger width right is the 4th magnitude star delta Aquarii. The radiant is just above this star. This meteor shower should be visible from 10.00 pm until dawn. The best rates will be at 3 am in the morning of the 31st.

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 29-30 July or 30-31 July 2014. More details here.

There are lots of interesting things in the sky to view with a telescope. Especially with Mars and Venus and Saturn so prominent in the sky.  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.

Printable PDF maps of the Eastern sky at 10 pm AEST, Western sky at 10 pm AEST. 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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