JULY 2016 Sky Events Calendar

The ASO Monthly Calendar of Events and Astronomical Data

Calendar is based on the "Space Calendar" data presented by the
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the Arkansas Sky Observatory Team.
If you would like for us to include your star parties or events, please send details via the CONTACT US button on the home page of ASO.

The Planets for July:
Mercury - tiny but bright (-0.2 magnitude) shines alongside bright Venus in low western twilight skies this mid-month and will be very difficult to view.  On the 29th, look for Mercury very close to the bright star REGULUS in Taurus and viewable favorably in less bright skies  - in CANCER-TAURUS

Venus - our brightest planet in quite close to tiny Mercury at mid-month in evening bright twilight, setting while the sky is still bright in the west . Note that this brilliantly white planet will rise ever-so-higher throughout the remainder of the summer, making for a beautiful "evening star" late in 2016 - in CANCER

Mars - still at a fairly large angular size (14"), Mars is favorably placed for imaging and viewing throughout the nights; at midmonth, the Red Planet sets shortly after 1 a.m., but for evening star parties and very good early night viewing, Mars is a great target this summer - in LIBRA

Jupiter - dominating the early evening skies, this will be our showcase "star party object" for July; the bright and yellow orb will set nearly due west at MIDNIGHT at midmonth and will be very well placed in high declinations for northern viewers - in LEO-VIRGO

Saturn - appearing as a very brilliant yellow star, Saturn is is slightly east of MARS and very high in the sky throughout the night, not setting until shortly after 3 a.m. local time.  This is a very favorable time to see the ringed planet high in norhern skies, with its rings tilted near maximum toward Earth. - in OPHIUCHUS

Uranus - distant planet Uranus rises about 2 a.m. local time and shines at magnitude 5.9, bright enough to spot in good binoculars if one knows where to look; use a good planetarium sky program or GO TO telescope to locate this distant world; by sunrise will be high in the east and will show a faint, blue disk in large telescopes - in PISCES

Neptune - look for faint Neptune in large telescopes at midmonth very, very close to the bright star Lambda Aquarii (mag. 3.7); it will be quite close to this star all month, thereby making it a bit easier to spot this distant world.  Nearly overhead about an hour before dawn. - in AQUARIUS

Pluto - at magnitude 14.1, our most distant planet ( is a planet) is very low in southern skies, setting about 4:30 a.m. local time; only 12 inch and larger telescopes can spot this world visually. - in SAGITTARIUS

NOTE:  for locating all of the faint planets I highly recommend a good computer planetarium program or a suitalbe Sky APP for your smart devices!

Comet Possiblities for July:
There are dozens of observable comets visible every month, in every part of the sky.  A moderate-sized telescope and CCD camera can easily record comets down to magnitude 18, of which there will be a good selection every night, provided that you know WHERE in the sky they are.  Thus a good PC planetarium program with your GO TO telescope or to plot visually is essential.  The comets can be updated in yor programs daily by downloading the current data into your database from the Minor Planet Center (MPC) via the link:
This will allow access to all visible comets for any given date.

In addition, a listing of "Observable Comets" is availale from MPC from the link:
In the case of a new and exciting/bright comet that may unexpected enter our skies, ALWAYS refer to the ALERTS link on the ASO Home Page.

For the latest observations, magnitudes and physical characteristics of most of the best comets, always look to the ASO Comet Database for accurate information:
The ASO July Stars  of the Month: Lyra ....."The Celestial Harp"

    NOTE:  Please see the ASO Constellations (GUIDES) on this website for complete observations information~!
    The constellation LYRA (pronounced "LIE-rah") ranks among the smallest of the entire regime of official l88 recognized constellations seen from both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. Though small in size, it is indeed "Mighty" in memories and well as ancient and even more modern history.

    The constellation of Lyra will hold special meaning in 15,000 or so years, not that it does not already to many people. As Thuban (alpha Draconis) was the Pole Star (the "north star") for the Egyptian pyramid-builders some 5,000 years ago, so will the bright star VEGA (alpha Lyrae) be in 15,000 years! This is due to the Earth's PRECESSION (wobbling on its axis as it moves through space, like a top askew from its perfect spin) over tens of thousands of years. At the present time, of course, POLARIS (alpha Ursa Minoris) just happens to be lined up in such a way as we see it superimposed over the distant line transcribed into space by the Earth's axis of rotation.

    The tiny but beautiful constellation of Lyra represents the LYRE OF HERMES, fashioned from the shell of a tortoise, according to Greek legend; interestingly earlier Persian sages also denoted the star pattern as ZURAH LYRE, an association that survived middle eastern conflict and religious persecution all the way through the 15th century when the "harp of Phoenicia" shone brightly in the skies over Arabia.

    In later Greek mythology, the lyre fell into the hands of noted Orpheus who turn his stringed song into a magic spell of sorts that mesmerized all - including animals and insects - who fell upon its melody. It was with Hermes musical instrument that Orpheus was able to enter the famed "underworld" attempting (without success) to rescue his sweetie, Eurydice from the forces of darkness.

    As you gaze at the beauty of such a small gathering of stars, it is quite easy to see Hermes' little harp suspended majestically among the stars; to me it is a wonderful reminder of the warmth, the smells and the wonderful innocent traditions of an impending childhood summer....
NOTE - Please see below for a listing in the daily calendar of all the many Summer Star Parties throughout the world this month.  Take this opportunity to visit your local event and learn more about the wonders of space!
Observe when the moon does not interfere and attempt to observe AFTER midnight for most meteors to be seen!  For July, there is a scant THREE meteor showers for the entire warm and inviting month.  However, as with a months and times during the year, observers should always be aware that new sporadic meteor showers can occur at anytime from seemingly unknown sources and radiants.

Note always observe meteors reclining with your feet in the direction of the meteor radiant.  Attempt to observe when the moon is not in the sky (see Daily Calendar below).

July 16 - Omicron Draconids - very high in northern skies.  Found in 1971 and few meteors seen since.  These are slow-moving meteors; the nearly full moon will dominate the skies throughout the night this year, so the faintest meteors that possibly are associated with this cloud might not be seen this year.  This is a circumpolar meteor shower for the northern hemisphere, circling high in northern polar regions and will be up all night.   This is possibly a swarm of debris particles from a long-dead comet that has simply "run out" of material or has been perturbed by the gravity of another object (i.e., Jupiter) and no longer passes through the orbit of the Earth.

July 28 - Delta Aquarids (South) - rises about 8 p.m. and overhead about 2 a.m.  The moon is last quarter for this meteor shower and thus is a problem this year, so this is a fair year for this shower;  normally you should expect perhaps 8-15 per hour; face south and look for meteors overhead and begin your observing about 11 p.m. on the 27th and continue into the dawn of the morning of the 28th.

July 23-30 - Capricornids - From comet Honda-Mrkos-Padjusakova, these are bright yellow meteors with many fireballs!  This is a fair year for these meteors to be seen and enjoyed, since the moon will be quarter but diminishing toward the end of the month; thus improving conditions  from July 28-31 for the duration of this activity; the radiant for these meteors is very low in SE sky at dark and south of overhead for mid-northern latitudes by midnight; best chance for the best meteors will be after about 1:30 a.m. local time when the dark side of the earth will be turning directly into the path of the meteor stream.  Even in moonlight this can be a spectacular shower, so this year - this year, expect the fainter meteors to be seen.!

Wishing you clearest skies and brightest comets.....

Dr. Clay
Arkansas Sky Observatories
10 Observatory Hill Drive, Petit Jean Mt.
MPC/cbat Obs. H41 / Petit Jean Mountain
MPC/cbat Obs. H45 / Petit Jean Mountain South
MPC/cbat Obs. H43 / Conway
MPC/cbat Obs. H44 / Cascade Mountain
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