It has recently been a sparse time for naked eye planets in the early evening sky. Around mid-month, July adds Jupiter and Saturn to the early evening sky. Also the Sun has the notoriety of being its farthest from the Earth during the hot month of July.

Jupiter is to the left of the teapot shaped constellation Sagittarius. The bright yellowish planet Jupiter can increase or decrease in apparent size by as much as 50% while the moon varies in size by only 10%. This is a great time to look at Jupiter with a small telescope because Jupiter is near its maximum size this month. The moon is in the area of Jupiter during the early evenings of July 3-6.

Yellowish Saturn is less than a fist (held at arms’ length) to the left of Jupiter all month. Saturn is less bright than Jupiter, but Jupiter appears only slightly larger than Saturn when the size of Saturn’s rings are included

Reddish Mars rises in the east around midnight this month. Mars continues its rapid brightening. It is already brighter than Mercury and Saturn and will be brighter than Jupiter in three months. Mars takes two years to orbit the Sun compared to One year for Earth to orbit the Sun. Last year Earth was far from Mars. This year Mars will come much closer, similar to two years ago. The apparent size of Mars can vary by six times depending on its distance from Earth. This becomes very noticeable in the brightness of Mars.

Venus is now in the morning sky. Look for Venus in the eastern sky 30-45 minutes before sunrise. Venus will start the month low in the sky but it will steadily climb higher each day during the course of the month.

July Sky Events

• July 4: Earth is at aphelion, its farthest distance from the Sun at 94.5 million miles. The Sun ranges from 91.4 to 94.5 million miles from Earth.

• July 3– 6: In the southeast evening sky, from 10-11 p.m., the almost full moon forms a nearly straight line on July 3-4 with Saturn on the left, Jupiter in the middle and the moon to the right. On July 5, an equilateral triangle is formed by Saturn to the upper left of the moon, the moon below and to the middle, and Jupiter to the upper right of the Moon. On July 6, the moon is on the left, Saturn is to the upper right of the Moon and Jupiter is to the upper right of Saturn.

• July 11: In the eastern morning sky about 45 minutes before sunrise, Venus is very close to the orange star Aldebaran.

• July 17: In the eastern morning sky about 30-45 minutes before sunrise, the thin crescent Moon is on the left, Venus is to the right of the Moon and the orange star Aldebaran is to the upper right of Venus.

• July 29: In the early evening, the Moon is near the reddish star Antares which is the heart of the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion.

• July 31: In the early evening sky, Saturn, Jupiter and the Moon (from left to right), form a line in the southeast sky.

Contact Leon Dibble, president of the Steele County Astronomical Society at leondneln@gmail.com to learn more.

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