Mercury, Moon, and Jupiter – a celestial dance!

This week the Moon dances with the planets Mercury and Jupiter. At the end of the week you have a chance to see a few Delta Aquarid meteors. Make sure you take some time to look up.  Here is your guide to the sky for July 24 – 30 , 2017…

Spotless Sun, Dancing Moon

Sunrise this week is at 5:15 am and sunset at 8:08 pm.  The past week it has been devoid of any sunspots which is a bit unusual.  The Moon this week dances with Mercury early in the week, and Jupiter near the end of the week.  On Monday and Tuesday a very thin waxing crescent frames Mercury immediately after sunset. On Monday look for it just below Mercury and very low on the horizon, Tuesday it is about a degree above Mercury and a bit easier to see.  On Friday it passes three degrees south of the bright planet Jupiter.  The Moon reaches First Quarter on Sunday at 11:23 am.

Planets for the week

Mercury visible in twilight after sunset reaches greatest elongation on Sunday, so this week is your best chance to see it for the month. With Moon assisting on Monday and Tuesday, why not try to catch the elusive one after sunset!   Brilliant Jupiter is easy to spot in the southwest at sunset being the brightest object other than the Moon after twilight, and the Moon passes by it at the end of the week.  Saturn is visible from sunset until around 2:30 am when it sets in the west. Mars is in conjunction with the Sun on Wednesday and it will be several weeks before we see the red planet in our skies again.

Late July Meteors – Find Aquarius

The Delta Aquariid Meteor Shower is active beginning in mid-July until late-August, peaking at the end of this week. During the peak one can expect a maximum of 20 meteors.  The shower is the remains of 96P Machholz.  Aquarius rises around 11:00 pm in the southwest.  It is a relatively faint group of stars.  To find it, look for the Summer Triangle.  Imagine drawing a line to the southwest from Vega going between Deneb and Altair and going past Delphinus and about the same distance again.  There you will find the water jar, or main arrow head shaped group of stars that marks Aquarius. This is where the meteors will emanate from. Hope you see a few of these this week!

ISS and Mayak

Tuesday morning from 1:57 am to 2:04 am catch the International Space Station moving from northwest to east. Wednesday see it from 8:58 pm to 9:05 moving from west to east.  On Friday see it from 8:50 pm to 8:57 pm travelling from west ti northeast for this week is the same day from 3:50 am to 3:56 am moving from northwest to east-southeast.  A new Russian satellite called Mayak also makes some nice passes this week.  Try seeing it on Wednesday morning from 12:06 am to 12:09 am moving from north to east. It makes a brighter pas on Thursday from 12:26 am to 12:29 am moving from north-northeast to north.  On Saturday see it from 12:45 am to 12:49 am moving from north to northwest.

Check out the Moon and planet dance, see a few meteors, or catch the new Russian satellite.  Happy summer stargazing and keep your eye on the sky!


Shawn Laatsch

About Shawn Laatsch

Shawn Laatsch is the director of the Emera Astronomy Center and Jordan Planetarium at the University of Maine. He started his astronomy education career in 1984 and has directed planetariums in university and science center facilities, taught undergraduate astronomy courses, and given numerous lectures around the globe. He serves as President (2017 & 2018) of the International Planetarium Society, Inc. the world’s largest organization of planetarium professionals. Shawn has a passion for sharing astronomy and stargazing with people of all ages.