Every week, SkyNews publishes a list of key events in the Canadian sky in This Week’s Sky. This series gives you all the latest news in Solar System movements, including where the planets are in our sky and Moon phases. From eclipses to meteor showers, This Week’s Sky keeps you updated on the best in upcoming astronomical highlights.
Tuesday, July 26 – Crescent Moon over Venus (before sunrise)
In the east-northeastern sky before sunrise on Tuesday morning, July 26, the brilliant planet Venus will be shining several finger widths to the lower right of the old Moon’s very slim crescent, close enough to share the view in binoculars (green circle). If you view the duo shortly after they rise, around 4 a.m. local time, the stars of Gemini, the Twins will be visible around them.
Thursday, July 28 – Asteroid Juno reverses direction (overnight)
On Thursday, July 28, the eastward prograde motion of the main belt asteroid designated (3) Juno through the background stars of western Pisces will slow to a stop. After tonight Juno will commence a westward retrograde loop that will last until late October (red path with dates:hour). In late July, Juno’s magnitude 9.6 point of light will rise before 10 p.m. and be observable all night as it crosses the sky. After dusk tonight, Juno will be located in the eastern sky, a finger’s width to the right (or 1 degree to the celestial southwest) of the medium-bright stars Gamma and Kappa Piscium. Retrograde loops occur when Earth, on a faster orbit closer to the Sun, passes more distant Solar System objects “on the inside track,” making them appear to move backwards across the stars.
Thursday, July 28 – New Moon (at 17:55 UTC)
On Thursday, July 28 at 1:55 p.m. EDT or 10:55 a.m. PDT (17:55 UTC), the Moon will officially reach its new Moon phase. At that time our natural satellite will be located in Cancer, 4.5 degrees north of the Sun. While new, the Moon is travelling between Earth and the Sun. Since sunlight can only illuminate the far side of the Moon, and the Moon is in the same region of the sky as the Sun, it becomes completely hidden from view from anywhere on Earth for about a day. After the new Moon phase, Earth’s celestial night-light will return to shine as a crescent in the western evening sky.
Friday, July 29 – Southern Delta-Aquariids meteors peak (overnight)
The annual Southern Delta-Aquariids meteor shower lasts from July 21 to August 23. It will peak from dusk on Friday, July 29 through dawn on Saturday, July 30, but it is quite active for a week surrounding the peak. This shower, produced by debris dropped from periodic Comet 96P/Machholz, commonly generates 15-20 meteors per hour at the peak. It is best enjoyed from the southern tropics, where the shower’s radiant, in southern Aquarius, climbs higher in the sky. Tonight, the number of meteors will appear while the radiant is highest in the sky, at around 3 a.m. local time. The young crescent Moon will have followed the Sun down, leaving the entire night dark for meteor-watchers.
Friday, July 29 – Jupiter stands still (midnight to dawn)
On Friday, July 29, the eastward prograde motion of the planet Jupiter through the background stars near the border between Pisces and Cetus will slow to a stop. After Friday, Jupiter will commence a westward retrograde loop that will last until the end of November (red path with dates:hour). Around midnight in late July, the bright, white dot of Jupiter will be shining in the lower part of the eastern sky. The planet will remain visible as it climbs south until the dawn twilight hides it. Retrograde loops occur when Earth, on a faster orbit closer to the Sun, passes more distant planets “on the inside track,” making them appear to move backwards across the stars.
Friday, July 29 – Young Moon above Mercury (after sunset)
After sunset on Friday, July 29, look just above the west-northwestern horizon for the very slender crescent of the young Moon shining two finger widths to the upper right (or 2.5 degrees to the celestial north) of the magnitude -0.74 planet Mercury. They’ll be close enough to share the view in binoculars (green circle). Mercury will continue to appear there, without the moon, on the subsequent nights.
Sunday, July 31 – Mars approaches Uranus (wee hours)
In the southeastern sky during the mornings starting on Sunday, July 31, the eastward orbital motion of the bright red planet Mars (red path with labelled date:time) will carry it towards Uranus from the right (or celestial west). On Sunday, Uranus will be positioned a thumb’s width to the upper left of Mars, close enough to share the eyepiece of a low magnification telescope and binoculars (green circle). At closest approach on August 2, Uranus will be located 1.5 degrees above Mars. To better see Uranus, try to view the pair between 3 and 4 a.m. local time, when they will sit almost halfway up a darkened sky.
Chris Vaughan is a science writer, geophysicist, astronomer, planetary scientist and an “outreach RASCal.” He writes Astronomy Skylights, and you can follow him on Twitter at @astrogeoguy. He can also bring his Digital Starlab portable inflatable planetarium to your school or other daytime or evening event. Contact him through AstroGeo.ca to tour the Universe together.