Title: July Skywatch Highlights
Location: Hawaiian Islands
Date / Time: July 2012
Comments: Behold our spectacular summer skies! Glorious bands of Milky Way stars illuminate our dark Hawaiian sky with a rich, "milky" haze. The stars & constellations of the Summer Triangle (Navigator's Triangle) grace the northern sky (Altair, in Aquila the Eagle; Vega, in Lyra the Harp; & Deneb, in Cygnus the Swan), while Scorpius, the giant Scorpion, & Sagittarius, the Archer, display boldly toward the south. In late June & early July we can spot MERCURY, naked-eye viewable, low above the western horizon shortly after the Sun sets. Shining at magnitude 0.4, the tiny innermost planet "pops" out of the twilight glow just as the sky starts to darken. Although Mercury reaches eastern elongation on June 30th, (its greatest angular distance east of the Sun), it remains conspicuous in early July. On July 1st, look for Mercury in the west-northwest, around 8PM, approx. 10 degrees above the western horizon. It doesn't set until an hour later. SATURN shines in the western evening sky throughout July. The ringed planet appears in the constellation Virgo, the Maiden, just a few degrees NE of Spica, Virgo's brightest star. At magnitude 0.7, Saturn appears slightly but noticeably brighter than Spica. Notice Saturn's golden hue, compared to blue-white Spica. Saturn's rings open wider than they've been since 2007, tilting at 13 degrees to our line of sight from Earth, & affording impressive views through even a small telescope. You might be able see the Cassini Division, a dark gap that separates the outer A ring from the broader & brighter B ring. Small telescopes also reveal some of Saturn's moons, including 8th magnitude Titan, the biggest & brightest. Saturn & Spica form a lovely triangle with MARS this month. Mars appears farthest to the west, but drifts steadily eastward against the background stars of Virgo, & forms the bottom point of a tight triangle for the final week of July. On the 24th, the scene is enhanced by the presence of a waxing crescent Moon, perhaps the finest grouping in this month's evening sky. Note Mars' distinct orange-red hue, in contrast to blue-white Spica, and the subtle golden glow of Saturn. VENUS and JUPITER, the brightest points of light in the sky, are stunning together in the early morning predawn sky, against the background stars of Taurus, the Bull. On July 1st, Venus (mag minus -4.4) and Jupiter (mag. minus -2.0) stand 4.8 degrees apart, against a backdrop that includes the bright Pleiades & Hyades star clusters. (Jupiter rises first & is about 4 degrees above much brighter Venus). Although the two planets drift apart as July progresses, & shift positions relative to the background stars, the morning scene remains quite splendid. In mid-July a beautiful waning crescent Moon joins the pair and, on July 15th, forms a spectacular triangle with the two brilliant planets. During the first 3 weeks of July, the Southern Cross, (Crux), is viewable just after sunset, low on the Southern Horizon. To view Crux, you'll need an unobstructed view to the southern horizon. Look for 2 bright stars, Alpha & Beta Centauri, which "point" to the Cross to their right/west. As the sky darkens, you should be able to see all the way from Polaris, (the North Star), to the bottom star in the Southern Cross, Acrux. For a July Hawaiian sky map, visit Bishop Museum Planetarium www.bishopmuseum.org/planetarium (bishopmuseum.org).

Maintained by Roz Reiner - Kauai, Hawaii

 

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