July brings a bright star and planet parade | Lifestyle

 July brings a bright star and planet parade |  Lifestyle


Greetings everyone. Although we’ve lost Mercury from our early morning planet-fest, you can still see the other four visible planets. However, they are much farther apart than they were a couple of months ago.

Venus is still hard to miss a fist-width above the eastern horizon. Measure two fist-widths to the right of Venus and four fist-widths up and you’ll find red Mars. Measure two fist-widths up from Mars and look to your right and you’ll find bright Jupiter which is not too far from straight overhead.

Saturn is now five fist-widths above the southwestern horizon. If you draw a line from Venus to Mars to Jupiter and continue along that line, you’ll find Saturn. And you will also draw the plane of the ecliptic, where we all orbit the sun.

And speaking of the sun, if you were out watching the fireworks on Monday did you notice how cold it was? You didn’t? That’s odd because on the 4th Earth was at aphelion. And what does that mean? The planet we all ride every day of our lives was as far from the sun as it will get for this trip. Which sort of shoots a hole in the theory that the seasons are caused by our distance from the sun, doesn’t it?

Shorter days

We’ve also passed the summer solstice and our days are growing shorter. The sun rose a minute later last Tuesday and we’ll lose eight minutes of morning daylight and three minutes of evening daylight in July.

Crater the Cup

Although there can be clouds in July, our evening skies are delightful. If you have clear skies to the west any night this week, it’s a good time to look for Crater the Cup. Just face west where the sun disappeared around 8 o’clock and measure three fist-widths up from the horizon and three fist-widths to the left. You might spot a constellation that’s about a fist-width wide and a fist-width tall. It does look like a cup, but I think it looks more like a latte stone. Go outside one evening this week and see what you think.

After you find the latte stone, turn 90 degrees to your left and you’ll find Crux the Southern Cross. The Cross is tilted to the right and by the end of the month it will disappear from our early evening sky until next year. Those two bright stars to the left of the Cross are number three and number ten on the bright star hit parade, and the one on the left, Alpha Centauri is the sun’s nearest neighbor. So, after you find the latte stone, wave to the neighbors!

Measure five fist-widths to the left of Alpha Centauri and you’ll be in the middle of the constellation Sagittarius the Archer. But I wouldn’t try to find a centaur holding a bow and arrows if I were you. I’d look for a group of fairly bright stars that look suspiciously like a teapot!

And if it’s clear to the south, but it still looks strangely cloudy around the teapot, there’s a reason. Those clouds aren’t made of water, they’re made of stars, because the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way, is located right above the teapot’s spout.

So, enjoy your absolutely stunning sky. Go out in the morning and find four of the five visible planets. And if you still want to see five, just look down! And then go out in the evening and find a latte stone and the sun’s nearest neighbor and the heart of your personal galaxy. Have fun!

Pam Eastlick was the coordinator for the former University of Guam planetarium since the early 1990s. She has been writing this weekly astronomy column since 2003. Send any questions or comments to life@guampdn.com and we will forward them to her.

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