Skynotes July 2014

Month Highlights

Mars and Saturn shine brightly in the evening sky, sitting high in the north. While the dark winter mornings allow us to catch Venus and Mercury low to the north-east before sunrise.

Planetarium Events

Discover the Night Sky

The Melbourne Planetarium at Scienceworks presents its popular after-dark sessions, Thursday evenings from 31st July to 21st August at 7.30pm. All evenings include a glass of wine with cheese, the opportunity to chat to the Planetarium’s astronomer, Dr Tanya Hill, and to be immersed in a planetarium experience. You will finish the evening stargazing through telescopes (weather permitting).

Each evening will showcase a different aspect of the night sky. For more information, pricing or bookings please see the What's On or call the Scienceworks Booking Office on 9392 4819.

Sunrise and Sunset Times

    Rise Set
Tuesday 1st 7:36 5:11
Friday 11th 7:34 5:17
Monday 21st 7:29 5:24
Thursday 31st 7:22 5:32

Moon Phases

First Quarter Saturday 5th
Full Moon Saturday 12th
Last Quarter Saturday 19th
New Moon Sunday 27th

The Moon will be at apogee (furthest from Earth) on Monday 28th at a distance of 406,568 km.

The Moon will be at perigee (closest to Earth) on Sunday 13th at a distance of 358,258 km.

Let The Moon Be Your Guide

The Moon can be used as a pointer to find other objects in the sky.

  • The waxing crescent Moon sits above Regulus (Leo, the lion) after sunset on the 2nd.
  • On the 6th, the waxing gibbous Moon forms a triangle with red Mars and bright Spica (Virgo).
  • On the evening of the 8th, the Moon is near Saturn.
  • Before sunrise on the 22nd, the waning crescent Moon is near Aldebaran (Taurus).
  • The Moon is to the right of Venus, low to the north-east horizon on the morning of the 25th.
  • Then during morning twilight on the 26th, the Moon is to the right of Mercury.
  • After sunset on the 29th, the Moon has made its way back to the bright star Regulus.

Planets

Mercury can be found above the north-east horizon before sunrise. Bright Venus is just above and to the left, guiding the way.

Venus is currently the ‘morning star’, shining brightly in the north-east before sunrise. You can use it to find Mercury which is below and to the right. The thin crescent Moon sits just to the right of Venus on the 25th.

Earth reaches aphelion on Friday 4th. This is when the Earth is at its furthest point from the Sun for the year, at 152 million km. It is a coincidence that this occurs during our winter; changes in the distance between the Earth and Sun are small enough that they do not significantly affect our daily temperatures.

Mars is high in the north at sunset and can be found drifting past the bright star Spica (Virgo). At the start of the month, Mars is below and to the left of Spica, on the 13th, Mars is directly below Spica then on the 20th, the two are side-by-side, with Mars to the right. The Moon joins the pair on the 6th.

Jupiter is too close to the Sun to be seen this month. It will reappear in the morning sky come August.

Saturn can be found in the north-east at sunset, to the right of Mars and Spica. The Moon sits between Saturn and the constellation of Scorpius on the 8th.

Meteors

While July doesn’t have any strong meteor showers, there are a number of minor showers that combine to produce good results during the later half of the month. The area of sky to watch is around the constellations of Aquarius and Capricornus and as always, the best time to spot meteors is after midnight. The main meteor shower for July, the Southern Delta Aquarids, peaks on the 28th.

Stars and Constellations

In the west in the early evening is the kite shape of Corvus, the crow, sitting just below the bright star Spica, in Virgo. The Southern Cross is high in the south while the bright stars Canopus and Achernar are found low to the southern horizon.

Almost overhead, Scorpius takes up a large part of the sky with the hook shape of its tail. Sitting below the tail of Scorpius is the teapot shape of Sagittarius.

International Space Station

From Earth, the ISS appears as a bright star that steadily moves across the sky. It can often be seen from Melbourne, for example at:

6:43pm – 6:47pm, Wednesday 9th July.

The Station will appear lovely and bright above the north-west horizon, passing Mars, Spica (Virgo), Saturn and the Moon, before disappearing near Antares (Scorpius).

Predictions of when to see the ISS can be obtained from the Heaven's Above website.

On This Day

4th 1997, Mars Pathfinder (USA) lands on Mars.

4th 1054, Chinese and other astronomers witnessed the supernova explosion that produced the Crab Nebula.

6th 1687, Isaac Newton (UK) published 'Principia Mathematica'.

8th 2011, The space shuttle Discovery (USA) was launched on the final mission for the shuttle program.

10th 1962, Telstar (USA) the first private telecommunications satellite was launched.

11th 1979, Skylab 1 (USA) was destroyed during re-entry over central Australia.

14th 1965, Mariner 4 (USA) made the first controlled flyby of Mars and returned the first close-up images of the planet.

15th 1975, the first USA/USSR space project Apollo-Soyuz was launched.

17th 1850, W.C. Bond and J.A. Whipple (USA) take the first photograph of a star.

20th 1969, Apollo 11 (USA) lands on the Moon. At 12:39pm AEST (21st) Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the Moon.

23rd 1999, The Chandra X-ray Observatory (USA) is launched from the space shuttle Columbia.

25th 2000, The International Space Station starts to take shape with the installation of the Russian Service Module.

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