Star Watch

STAR WATCH FOR July and August, 2018

The WCSU Planetarium and Observatory facility is currently closed for the summer.

Because of the close approach of Mars, special MARS VIEWING NIGHTS are scheduled during July and August. However, these will be      held―if skies are clear to partly cloudy―on the roof of the Science Building on the WCSU Midtown Campus rather than at the Westside Campus facility. Since Mars during its summer appearance this year is very low in the southern sky (never more than 22 degrees altitude), trees at the Westside facility will hinder viewing there; but the Science Building roof affords an excellent view of the southern sky without significant interference from trees. Mars viewing nights are scheduled for Sat., July 21; Fri., July 27; Mon., July 30; and Sat., Aug. 4 . See the Calendar below.

NIGHTLY SKY CALENDAR

*, !, !! – interesting to very interesting celestial event

E –  calendar or geometry – related event (such as an equinox)

Day Date Note Description
Thurs July 12 New Moon. Perigee (357,431 km or 222,097 miles) occurring only five hours later means large ocean tides.
Thurs 12 The planet Mercury (apparent magnitude 0.3) reaches greatest eastern elongation, 26 degrees from the Sun; look between Venus (west) and the sunset position (NW). The thin waxing crescent Moon passes very near Mercury on the evening of July 14.
Sun 15 The waxing crescent Moon passes near the planet Venus. Look W after sunset.
Thurs 19 First Quarter Moon
Fri 20 The waxing gibbous Moon passes above the planet Jupiter. Look in the WSW to SW early evening sky.
Sat 21 ! Special Mars Viewing Night, 10 p.m. to midnight. Viewing will be held on the roof of the Science Building, Midtown Campus. Follow the main elevator or stairs to the third floor and the roof deck. Jupiter and Saturn, and the Moon, may be viewed in addition to Mars.
Tues 24 The waxing gibbous Moon passes near Saturn. Look S in early evening.
Fri 27 FULL Buck MOON
Fri 27 !! Special Mars Viewing Night, 10 p.m. to midnight. Viewing will be held on the roof of the Science Building, Midtown Campus. Follow the main elevator or stairs to the third floor and the roof deck. Mars reaches opposition tonight, and the Full Buck Moon passes near it. Jupiter and Saturn may be viewed in addition to Mars and the Full Moon. Also, the Moon reaches apogee (406,223 km or 252,415 miles) and is the smallest Full Moon of the year.
Mon 30 !! Special Mars Viewing Night, 10 p.m. to midnight. Viewing will be held on the roof of the Science Building, Midtown Campus. Follow the main elevator or stairs to the third floor and the roof deck. Mars is nearing its 2018 closest approach (35.8 million miles) to Earth tonight; the actual closest approach is on the 31st around 4 a.m. Jupiter and Saturn, and the Moon, may be viewed in addition to Mars.
Sat Aug. 4 Last Quarter Moon
Sat 4 ! Special Mars Viewing Night, 10 p.m. to midnight. Viewing will be held on the roof of the Science Building, Midtown Campus. Follow the main elevator or stairs to the third floor and the roof deck.  Saturn may be viewed in addition to Mars.
Fri 10 The  Moon reaches perigee (358,078 km or 222,499 miles). With the New Moon occurring 16 hours later, large ocean tides will again occur.
Sat 11 New Moon
Sun/Mon 12/13 * With the crescent Moon setting early, this should be a good year for watch Perseid meteors. Look NE late on the 12th and into the early hours of the 13th. An observer in a dark location may see dozens of fast meteors per hour, appearing to radiate from the constellation Perseus.
Fri 17 * The planet Venus reaches greatest eastern elongation, 46 degrees from the Sun. This configuration is less favorable then some (in terms of Venus’s altitude after sunset) because Venus is farther south than at other GEEs. Look low in the WSW after sunset. In a telescope, Venus will resemble a tiny First Quarter Moon; but over the next few weeks it will gain in angular size and resemble an ever thinner crescent.
Sat 18 First Quarter Moon
Thurs 23 The Moon reaches apogee (405,746 km or 252,119 miles) from Earth.
Sun 26 FULL Sturgeon MOON
Sun 26 Mercury reaches greatest western elongation 18 degrees from the Sun, preceding it in the predawn sky. Over the next week, Mercury will brighten. This is a favorable geometry for Northern Hemisphere observers.

PLANET INFORMATION                                                                                              

MERCURY – is too close to the Sun to be easily seen during July and the first half of August, but it reappears in the ENE predawn sky thereafter and reaches greatest western elongation on Aug. 26. This is a favorable appearance of Mercury for Northern Hemisphere observers.

VENUS – is visible in the western sky after sunset. Its maximum separation from the Sun (greatest eastern elongation) occurs on Aug. 17, but its visibility declines because Venus is also moving south of the celestial equator

MARS – has a favorable opposition year, the best since 2003, and is brilliant low in the SE to S evening sky during much of July and August. At Mars’s opposition on July 27, it will reach magnitude – 2.8, appearing nearly twice as bright as Jupiter but distinctively orange.

JUPITER – is low in the SW evening sky during July and August.

SATURN – is in Sagittarius, low in the S sky after sunset; the planet reached opposition on June 27. Jupiter, Saturn and Mars make a striking sight in the southern evening sky during July and August.

 

Star Watch is a service provided by the Earth and Planetary Sciences program at Western Connecticut State University. Thanks for connecting!