Astronomy: The Week Ahead – Sun 5 Jul to Sat 11 Jul


Sunday July 05

Today an 18.5-day-old 85% illuminated waning gibbous Moon is at perigee, at 11:54 A.M. This is its closest point to earth in this orbit of our planet. When the Moon is full at perigee, it has been referred to as a Supermoon. See the Moon best today before sunrise. It sets just before 10 a.m. Look carefully and try to see it during the day.


Monday July 06

This morning in the early sunrise, Earth reaches Aphelion. It will be 1.017 AU (Astronomical Units) from the Sun at 05:59 PDT. This is its farthest point from the Sun in our planet’s elliptical orbit.


Tuesday July 07

Pluto is at opposition today. The Earth is directly between the dwarf planet and the Sun. So, Pluto rises at sunset today, is up all night, and sets with the next morning’s sunrise. Pluto is in an easy to locate position, right off the tip of the Teaspoon in Sagittarius. The above image shows its position relative to the nearby bright star. Even with this help, Pluto will look like a dim star in a telescope. But, with the New Horizon space probe visiting this distant world on in just one week, this may be a fun target to pursue!


Wednesday July 08

The Last Quarter Moon occurs at 13:24 today. It will be slightly larger than half illuminated in the early hours when it rises over the eastern horizon in Pisces, below Pegasus. Last Quarter is tacitly the beginning of a dark sky observing window, for deep sky observers, lasting until after New Moon. Get your telescopes out and let us know what you’re looking at!


Thursday July 09

Before it rose, just after it 1 a.m. this morning, the Moon occulted the seventh planet Uranus. Look at yesterday’s Moon position and you can see how its path to today’s location crossed over the planet. Uranus is in an easy position currently, for star hoppers to get to, just off the two brighter stars in the western string of Pisces. Wait for the moon to move away over the next few nights, and add Uranus to this week’s planetary targets.


Friday July 10

Did you all enjoy the Venus and Jupiter conjunction last week? It won’t occur again until 2023, so it was really a special treat! Still, the two planets are close together, setting after evening twilight. Continue to watch them move further apart, as Venus approaches Leo’s bright star Regulus, along the Ecliptic, as is Virgo’s Spica.


Saturday July 11

Due south an hour after sunset, the great globular cluster M4 is easy to view, just off Scorpius’ giant red star Antares. One of the closest globular cluster’s to our position in the Milky Way Galaxy, it is thought to be some 9,000 light years distant. Although it is a Messier object, in the famed French comet hunter’s catalog, it was discovered in 1746 Philippe Loys de Chéseaux. It was the first globular cluster in which individual stars were seen. At magnitude 5.9, this is at the threshold of most people’s sight. Don’t forget to visit nearby Saturn too, if you are in the area.

Happy viewing!