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Nighttrek Report: What to See in the July Sky

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By Neill Simmons

Nighttrek

The highlight of July is the second “Super Full Moon” of three months in a row.  June was a “Super Moon” and so is the one in August.  This Moon will rise after sunset on Wednesday, July 13.  This will be the biggest and brightest Super Moon of the year because the Moon will be nearer to Earth than normal.  This Moon in July is referred to as the “Buck Moon” as the antlers of male deer are growing at a fast pace.

 FUN FACT:   Asteroids come in many sizes and shapes and are pulled towards the Sun.  Once in a while, one comes close to Earth and is pulled in by our gravity and will orbit around us for a couple of years.  Astronomers call these big rocks “Mini-Moons.” However, the latest “Mini-Moon” of 2020 just got pulled out of our orbit by the Sun.  Good-bye Mini-Moon.

On July 28 into the early morning of the 29 is the Delta Meteor Shower.  Viewing numbers will be best around 4 am.  A meteor that appears to be brighter than a planet like Venus is called a “Fireball.”  

DAWN PATROL:   Four naked-eye planets are easy to spot and are up in the dawn sky at 4 am. They are Venus, the red planet Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn in the east.  Mars is fun to watch now as it gets bright and redder. Earth will be at its closest approach to Mars on December 8, when the red planet will be only 38.6 million miles from us.  

July is the best month to do one of our favorite activities – watching satellites cross the night sky.  In July it is easy to spot one every two minutes in the time frame of 9 pm to 11 pm.  Also 4 am to dawn is a great time to spot satellites.  There are over 35,000 satellites orbiting Earth, many of them are now defunct and are considered space junk.

July 1, 2, and 3 bring us a beautiful thin crescent Moon.  Look west after sunset.

July is a good month to see the second brightest constellation, “Scorpius” in the south.  It is easy to spot by the giant red star, “Antares,” which marks the heart of this scorpion.  “Antares” means the “rival of Mars” in Greek.  This constellation has many star clusters in it.  In Greek lore, Scorpius killed the mighty “Orion” with its stinger.  With binoculars, look right to the area next to the red star Antares to spot a beautiful star cluster.

Look  north and notice that the Big Dipper is hanging down.  It appears to be at its biggest in July.

Look in the northwest and your eye will catch the bright star Vega.  Notice two other bright stars to the right of Vega.  These three stars make up the “Summer Triangle.”

Vandenberg SFB will be launching three rockets on July 7, 13, and 16, and all will be at 5 pm.  Look northwest from our area. 

When not stargazing, Neill Simmons is a Wealth Manager with LPL Financial in Woodland Hills.  If you have any astronomy or financial questions, he may be reached at (818) 936-2626 or neill.simmons @ lpl.com.