What's in the night sky this July?

Each month I will highlight a few things for you to spot in the night sky. These will be visible with the naked eye.

Planets

Venus

Many of you will have seen Venus as a bright evening object over the past few months. Now it has moved to being an early morning object in an east- north east direction and it will be bright! Between 4 and 4 thirty is best before the Sun becomes too bright so you’ll need to be up early.

Some dates to make a special effort are the 12th July when it will be close to the red tinged star Aldebaran and on the 17th when it will be close to a waning Moon. Beautiful sights both of them!

Venus close to Aldebaran on the 12th July

Courtesy of Stellarium

Venus close to the waning Moon on the 17th July

Courtesy of Stellarium

Mars

The red planet becomes easier to see as the month progresses. Here is another reason to be up early on the 12th July- you’ll see Venus close to Aldebaran and Mars close to the Moon! Look low down in an east- north easterly direction.

Mars, Venus and the Moon 12th July

Courtesy of Stellarium

Jupiter

In 2020 Jupiter will appear at its brightest during the month of July- so make sure you see it! Again it is an early morning or maybe late night object, depending on your sleep pattern! You will spot it low down in the south. It is worth marking in your diary early morning of the 6th July (around 1pm) when it will appear close to the full Moon and to the planet Saturn.

Jupiter and Saturn close to the Moon early on the 6th July

Courtesy of Stellarium

Noctilucent Clouds

Noctilucent (‘night shining’) clouds are the highest type of cloud formations, typically up at over 82Km which is in the Mesosphere. As a result of their great height they remain illuminated for a while after the Sun has set. So although it is night here on earth it is still light up there and they shine beautifully against the twilight sky.

You will often see these clouds for one to two hours after sun set shining above the north-eastern horizon. You may also catch them of course, one to two hours prior to sunrise.

These clouds are essentially ice sheets which reflect the sunlight from below our horizon. They appear blue a with intricate filaments. They are only visible from late May until the end of August, so it is worth trying to spot!

Star of the Month – MIZAR

I’m sure you are all familiar with the constellation The Plough or Great Bear. You will be able to spot the constellation after dark for all the month in a westerly direction. The image here shows it on the 14th at 11:00 as an example.

The constellation The Plough or Great Bear

Courtesy of Stellarium

We are interested in the second star along the handle, MIZAR.

The position of MIZAR in The Plough

Courtesy of Stellarium

Some of you with good eyesight may be able to spot it is a double star! It is a good test. If you cannot spot this then binoculars easily resolves them The smaller neighbour is called ALCOR. In fact this is part of a four star system. Let me know if you can spot ALCOR with the naked eye!

MIZAR and its smaller companion ALCOR

Courtesy of Stellarium

Enjoy the night sky and see you next month for more naked eye objects in space!