This is the last week before we go on our much-awaited first summer hiatus until September, so this segment of What’s Up will be a preview of what you can expect in the next couple of months. There’s a lot, so stay tuned.
During the rest of July, there are multiple exciting events. The first is on July 20, when Venus will be 1.5 degrees from the open cluster Messier 35 in Gemini. Later in July, there will be two occultations. The first is on July 21 when Mars will be 1.1 degrees away from the Moon. A couple of hours later on July 22, Uranus will be two-tenths of a degree away from the Moon.
August 2022 will be the month of planets. First, on August 1, Mars and Uranus will be within a degree and a half of each other. Three days later, Mercury will be within seven-tenths of a degree of the bright star Regulus.
A few days later there will be an extra special event: two of Jupiter’s moons transiting in front of it at the same time, at 01:30 UTC on August 9, which is early evening Central time on the evening of the 8th. This same thing will happen again on August 16 at 03:59 UTC, or an hour or two before midnight on the evening of the 15th.
Jupiter’s four biggest moons transit regularly, but it’s somewhat rare to see more than one at the same time. The first time I saw a moon transit Jupiter, I wasn’t deliberately looking for it, so it was quite special at the eyepiece. Another time I was doing some planetary astrophotography. I came back inside and looked at my data, and only then did I notice I had captured a transit. Be sure to catch this event, and use The Shallow Sky calculator we’ve linked to in the show notes on DailySpace.org.
On August 13, the Perseid meteor shower will peak, though it will be largely washed out by the Full Moon.
The next day, Saturn will be at opposition – the point where it’s directly across from the Sun with Earth in the middle – and at its highest point in the sky. This is the event I’m most looking forward to this summer. Saturn and its rings are very nice to look at, and it’s a fun challenge to tease out the faint details on the rings in brief moments of stable atmosphere. At first glance, Saturn looks uniform and yellowy-beige, but just like Jupiter, Saturn has bands of different colors; however, they are more subtle and harder to see than on Jupiter. Seeing these variegated colors requires patience and a stable setup. If you’re going to be spending a lot of time at the eyepiece of your telescope, a folding chair can make things a lot more comfortable.
For the rest of August, there will be several occultations involving the Moon. Jupiter, Uranus, Ceres, and Vesta are all going to have the Moon pass in front of them.
Wrapping up the month of August is Mercury’s greatest eastern elongation. The best time to see it will be during the evening hours. This is the point where it will be farthest from the Sun in the sky, setting just behind the Sun.
Finally, at the beginning of September, Venus will be eight-tenths of a degree from Regulus, a bright star in Leo.
Galilean Moons of Jupiter (The Shallow Sky)