The gibbous moon begins to approach the two gaseous giant planets July 3 near the star-spangled Sagittarius constellation, which you can spot above the southeastern horizon. On July 5, the moon officially becomes full at 12:44 a.m. Eastern time. (For the Central and western time zones, the moon becomes officially full July 4.)
The bright moon scoots by the teapot handle asterism in Sagittarius on the evening of July 5 to form a trio with Jupiter and Saturn. By the next night, the gibbous lunar companion moves along.
Don’t worry, there’s more. Jupiter and Saturn soon reach opposition — which is, more or less, a “full planet” — in mid-July. Jupiter (July 14) is opposite the sun, from our blue planet perspective. Saturn reaches opposition July 20, according to the Naval Observatory.
Effervescent Venus ascends the eastern sky before 4 a.m. early in July. Our brilliant neighboring planet starts the month at -4.7 magnitude, which is dazzling and easily seen. It’s perfectly placed for beach lovers walking the sand before dawn or for “staycationers” walking the dog. The observatory notes that Venus’s magnitude diminishes slightly toward the end of July.
Our other neighboring planet, Mars, rises before 1 a.m. in the eastern sky early in the month. Find the rusty, ruddy Red Planet before dawn in the southeast. It really does have a red tint, especially because it is bright at -0.5 magnitude when the month starts and reaches -1.07 magnitude (bright) at July’s end.
Mars is expecting more research traffic, as NASA’s sturdy rover Perseverance and its small companion helicopter Ingenuity are scheduled for launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on July 22 at 9:35 a.m. (nasa.gov).
The mission will research Martian geology and scoop up soil samples for a return to Earth in a future mission.
Before sunrise, an Atlantic Ocean beach in mid- to late July would be perfect to catch all five visible planets and an elderly moon. Find the fleet Mercury in the east-northeast loitering low on the horizon near the Gemini and Orion constellations. Moving south, you can see Venus is the heart of the constellation Taurus. On July 15, see the crescent moon approaching Venus. While Mars is almost due south, turn and find Saturn and Jupiter getting ready to set in the west.
On July 5, near the time the moon is officially full, there will be a very slight penumbral lunar eclipse, according to retired NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak (eclipsewise.com). In reality, it is so faint that you won’t notice it. This will be the third eclipse in a series of 71 events, so for the first total lunar eclipse in this series, saros 149, you’ll need patience — because it will occur April 16, 2489.
Tune in for a down-to-Earth event July 7: “More Things in the Heavens: Infrared Exploration with the Spitzer Space Telescope,” an online lecture by Michael Werner, the Spitzer project scientist, who will describe how the telescope explored the heavens in the infrared. The Exploring Space Lecture Series event is hosted by the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum (airandspace.si.edu) at 8 p.m. Link to the lecture: https://rb.gy/ud5bdg.
Blaine Friedlander can be reached at PostSkyWatch@yahoo.com.