Tonight's Sky

Dave Leake's preview of 2019 sky events can be found here

For: July 8-14

Tomorrow is the “opposition” date for Saturn.   Look for it in the southeast as the Sun sets.   Even a small telescope should show the rings, though the view may be blurry given its low altitude. Nearly due south, Jupiter reigns to the upper left of the star Antares, the brightest in Scorpius, the Scorpion.  Follow the scorpion’s body down towards the horizon and see how it forms a “J-shape.”  In Pacific legends this is also called “Maui’s Fish Hook,” a possession popularized by the Disney movie “Moana.”  Saturday, a nearly full Moon is just to the left of Jupiter.  For those who love Pluto, it is closest to our Earth Sunday at 3.052 billion miles; practically next door, eh?  

For: July 15-21

Look for the almost Full Moon to rise in the southeast tonight at sunset.  To the left of the Moon will be Saturn.  The Moon is technically full Tuesday.  July’s full Moon is the Buck Moon or Thunder Moon.   It is in July that a deer’s antlers are starting to be visible.    There will be a partial lunar eclipse Tuesday, but we won’t get to see it as we’re on the wrong side of the Earth!   For us, the event occurs in the afternoon before the Moon rises.   Europe and Africa are favored.  It will be May of 2021 before we glimpse a lunar eclipse.  A more favorable eclipse occurs in May of 2022.

For: July 22-28

Look nearly due south at 10pm this week for Jupiter and the reddish star Antares.  Jupiter will be the brightest object in the area.  Hold a fist out at arm’s length and sight along your arm.   Can you get a fist between the planet and the star?  Keep making this measurement through the beginning of August.   Jupiter seems to move towards Antares, then in late July it is stationery, then it will begin to move away, eastward.  This “retrograde motion” results from the Earth catching and passing a slower outer planet.  The same effect can be seen on the highway when you pass a slower car.  The slower car appears to go backwards as you pass.  

For: July 29 – August 4

Tuesday brings the maximum of the Delta Aquarid Meteor Shower.  Though not the most potent shower of the year, an observer under dark skies may see up to 25 meteors per hour.   Meteor showers get their name from the location of the radiant point.  Though meteors may appear in all parts of the sky, tracing their paths backwards lead to a point.  For this event, the radiant is in Aquarius.  The meteors aren’t actually coming from one spot.  It’s like standing in the middle of a railroad track and the rails seem to converge in the distance.   Wednesday’s New Moon is the second New Moon of the month.   Some call this a “black moon,” but someone invented that term.  There’s no astronomical significance to it. 

See Dave Leake's "Prairie Skies" column in the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette each Monday morning.