Podcaster: Rob Webb
Title: Observing With Webb in July 2013
Organization: Physics teacher at Pequea Valley High School
Description: July is an interesting month, given the nights are short, Saturn is prominent, and the dawn sky has an interesting dance going on between Mars, Jupiter, and Mercury. I’d recommend getting that telescope or pair of binoculars out to look at Saturn in the evening or get up early every now and then and check out Jupiter and Mars.
Bio: Rob Webb is a physics, astronomy, and sustainability teacher at Pequea Valley High School in Pennsylvania. His passions include teaching, astronomy, astrophotography, planetariums, running, reading, and golf. A proud graduate of Dickinson College in 2005, he also obtained a Master’s Degree in Science Education from Penn State University after conducting research in regards to the current state of planetariums in Pennsylvania. Feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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July is an interesting month, given the nights are short, Saturn is prominent, and the dawn sky has an interesting dance going on between Mars, Jupiter, and Mercury. I’d recommend getting that telescope or pair of binoculars out to look at Saturn in the evening or get up early every now and then and check out Jupiter and Mars.
6th – Close Encounter – Mars, Moon, Jupiter – Get out early in the morning and check out the very thin, very low crescent Moon. Only 4˚ up and to the left of it will be the reddish Mars. You may need binoculars to help you out. Down and to the left of the Moon (and twice as far away) is Jupiter, which is great view in binoculars.
New Moon – 8th (darkest skies)
10th – Close Encounter – Moon, Venus – Look West after the Sun sets and look for a thin waxing crescent Moon. Again, binoculars will help. Up and to the right about 8˚ (almost a fist-width) will be bright Venus as the first “star” you’ll see in that direction.
First Quarter Moon – 15th (Visible until midnight)
16th – Close Encounter – Moon & Saturn – The just-past-first-quarter Moon will be about 4˚ below Saturn. Try binoculars or a telescope to the rings that Galileo called “ears” through his telescope.
Full Moon – 22nd (Visible all night)
23rd – Close Encounter – Mars, Jupiter, Mercury – Jupiter has been creeping up toward Mars each morning this month and will finally surpass it this morning. Passing by only 1˚ (one pinky’s width at arm’s length), Jupiter and Mars will be found in the Eastern sky before sunrise. Be sure to get out there while it’s still dark at a place with a clear view of the Eastern horizon and stay until you can’t see them anymore. Mercury is only about 8˚ below Jupiter.
Last Quarter Moon – 29th (Visible from midnight into the morning)
PLANETS…well, the ones visible with your naked eye
Planets you can see around Sunset – Venus (W), Saturn (S)
Planets you can see throughout the night – Saturn (SàW)
Planets you can see in the Morning – Mars (E), Jupiter (E), Mercury (E)
Mercury – Not really visible until the last week of the month where it’s in the NE right before sunrise. You’ll need binoculars.
Venus – Sets pretty quickly after sunset (before 10pm), and will be very low in the West. Closest to the Moon on the 10th.
Mars – Probably difficult to spot this month, particularly early on. However, if you look East before sunrise, you may be able to locate it very close to the horizon – about 10˚ or one fist width. Has a conjunction with Jupiter on the 23rd.
Jupiter – Hard to find in the beginning of the month, but gets easier as it climbs higher in the dawn sky every day. Look East for the brightest “star” before the sun rises. Near Mars throughout the month, closest to Mars on the 23rd.
SATURN – Good time to check out Saturn! Look South after sunset to find the very bright object that is Saturn. It will rise throughout the night, heading toward the South, and setting in the west around 1am. Close to the Moon on the 16th. Use binoculars or a telescope and try to see its rings, or as Galileo called them, “ears”.
CONSTELLATIONS… (see sky map link at the bottom for a Star Map for this month – or ask Mr. Webb) Look straight up and you’ll see…
Just after Sunset (around 8:30pm) – Bootes, Corona Borealis, and Hercules. Bootes is known as the shepherd, kite, or ice cream cone. You can follow the arc of the Big Dipper’s handle to get to its brightest star Arcturus. Hercules has an Extra Challenge! Look for M13, the Hercules Cluster in between two of Hercules’ “keystone” stars. It known as the best globular cluster in the northern skies. It will be a fuzzy spot in binoculars and will be even cooler through a telescope
Midnight – Lyra, Cygnus, Aquila (a little to the south) – These are the Summer constellations, and since they are visible right above us around midnight (and to the east after sunrise), it’s now summer! More details below in the “General Constellation Finding Tips” Extra Challenge! Look for M57, the Ring Nebula in between two of Lyra’s stars. It is 2,300 light years away, which means we’re seeing what it looked like 2,300 years ago. The shell that you see is the remnants of the central star that blew up some 20,000 years ago. It has a donut-like appearance through a telescope. It’ll be easy to find, but tough to see in binoculars, so get the scope out.
Early Morning – Pegasus, Andromeda
GENERAL CONSTELLATION FINDING TIPS:
Summer Constellations: Lyra, Cygnus, Aquila, Delphinus
Look to the east after sunset or straight up around midnight and you’ll be able to see Lyra (the Harp), Cygnus (the Swan), Aquila (the Eagle), (and Delphinus the Dolphin.) These three constellations have the three brightest stars of the summer constellations (Vega, Deneb, Altair – respectively.) Those bright stars create the summer triangle. Off to the east of this is the small but beautiful constellation of Delphinus.
Spring Constellations: Bootes, Virgo, Leo, Corona Borealis, Hercules.
First find the Big Dipper in the North (a North Circumpolar Asterism that never sets) and look at the handle. Starting at the star closest to the “cup” part, follow the rest of the stars in the handle and follow the arc to Arcturus. Arcturus is the brightest star in Bootes the Shepherd. Some say he looks more like a kite, others say more like an ice cream cone.
Then, following the same “arc”, speed on to Spica. Spica is the brightest star in Virgo. Virgo’s a dimmer constellation, so you’ll be rewarded when you find her.
To the left of Bootes is Corona Borealis. This is a small collection of stars that make a crown, cup, or U shape in the sky.
To the left of Corona Borealis is the great constellation of Hercules. Hercules is the Hero of the sky and has a central “keystone” asterism, in which lies M13, the Hercules Cluster.
Lastly, Leo is a constellation consisting of a backward question mark (or sickle) and a right triangle to the left. Use the two Big Dipper “cup” stars that are in the middle of the Big Dipper and follow the line they make to the bright star Regulus, the brightest star in Leo.
Use a sky map from www.skymaps.com to help you out.
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365 Days of Astronomy
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