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| Astronomy Essentials | Space on Jul 14, 2014

July 2014 guide to the five visible planets

By mid-July, Jupiter is gone. As darkness falls, Mars and star Spica are closest together for 2014, with Saturn nearby. Venus and Mercury east before dawn.

Use the Big Dipper to locate the star Spica and the planet Mars in July 2014 Read more

Use the Big Dipper to locate the star Spica and the planet Mars in July 2014 Read more

Let the moon guide you to Mars and Saturn on August 1, August 2 and August 3

Let the moon guide you to Mars and Saturn on August 1, August 2 and August 3

Jupiter has faded into the sunset by mid-July 2014, but Mars and Saturn pop into view as soon as darkness falls throughout July 2014. Mars is noticeable because it is near the star Spica; they are closest on our sky’s dome for 2014 in the month of July. Moreover, Mars and Saturn will continue to adorn the evening sky in August and September. As darkness falls on these July evenings, look for ruddy Mars and blue-white Spica in the southwestern sky, and for golden Saturn in the south to southwest. It’s easy to distinguish ruddy Mars from golden Saturn by color.

On key dates, let the moon help guide you to the evening planets. Jupiter sits low beneath the moon and Regulus after sunset on July 1. The moon swings close to Mars on July 5, and Saturn on July 7.

Click here for more detail about the evening planets.

Venus, the sky’s brightest planet is prominent in the eastern dawn sky throughout July 2014. In fact, dazzling Venus will remain the most brilliant starlike object in the morning sky until late October of this year, at which time it will shift over into the evening sky. The lovely waning crescent moon pairs up with Venus on the mornings around July 24. Watch for them.

Mercury, the innermost planet, becomes visible in the morning sky, starting around July 11. Let the moon and Venus help you find Mercury before sunrise on July 24 and July 25.

Click here for more detail about the morning planets.

Special sky events coming up late July and early August 2014:

Delta Aquarid meteor shower peaks in late July

Moon, Mars in constellation Virgo after sunset August 1

Moon near two planets and bright star at nightfall on August 2

First quarter moon between Mars and Saturn evening of August 3

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Evening planets in July 2014

When will Jupiter return?

Mars visible from dusk until around midnight.

Saturn from evening dusk until wee hours after midnight.

Morning planets in July 2014

Venus before sunrise throughout July.

Mercury at dawn, starting around July 11.

What do we mean by visible planet?

When will Jupiter return? Jupiter was the brightest celestial object to light up the evening sky in early July, but by mid-July it has disappeared in the sunset glare. By around July 13, Jupiter set about half an hour after the sun. Jupiter will set with the sun on July 24, to transition out the evening and into the morning sky. Jupiter should become visible in the east at early dawn, starting around the second week of August, 2014.

By mid-July 2014, Jupiter has disappeared into the sunset glare, but, as darkness falls, Mars and the star Spica are closest to each other on our sky's dome for this year.  You can also see Saturn nearby.  Photo by EarthSky Facebook friend Paulo Vinicius.  Thanks, Paulo!

By mid-July 2014, Jupiter has disappeared into the sunset glare, but, as darkness falls, Mars and the star Spica are closest to each other on our sky’s dome for this year. You can also see Saturn nearby. Photo by EarthSky Facebook friend Paulo Vinicius. Thanks, Paulo!

Mars,  via Hubble Heritage Project

Mars sometimes appears small through telescopes, and sometimes appears larger! It all depends on where Earth and Mars are in orbit with respect to each other. In April 2014, Earth and Mars were on the same side of the sun, closest in two years. Mars will remain bright throughout the northern summer of 2014. Image via Hubble Heritage Project.

Use the Big Dipper to locate the star Spica and the planet Mars in July 2014.

Use the Big Dipper to locate the star Spica and the planet Mars in July 2014.

Mars visible from evening dusk until around midnight. Mars appears respectably bright all through July, 2014. That’s because Earth caught up with Mars in the race of the planets in April 2014, and Mars is still relatively close to Earth. Mars was at opposition on April 8, and closest to Earth on April 14. The red planet is fainter now than it was in April, May or June, but this ruddy world still shines slightly brighter than Spica, the constellation Virgo’s brightest star, which is near it on the sky’s dome.

Use the Big Dipper to locate Spica and Mars all month long. Let the moon guide you to Mars for a few nights, centered on July 5.

Also on the night of July 5-6, the first quarter moon will occult – or cover – Mars. The occultation will be visible from Hawaii, the west coast of Central America and the northern half of South America. Click here to learn more about the July 6 occultation of Mars.

Saturn via ESO/U. of Oxford/L. N. Fletcher/T. Barry

Thermal infrared images of Saturn from the VISIR instrument on ESO’s VLT (center and right) and an amateur visible-light image (left) from Trevor Barry (Broken Hill, Australia). Obtained on January, 2011. Via ESO/U. of Oxford/L. N. Fletcher/T. Barry

Planet Saturn at the April 28, 2013 opposition (day Earth went between sun and Saturn) from EarthSky Facebook friend D.R. Keck Photography.

Planet Saturn at its April 28, 2013 opposition (day Earth went between sun and Saturn in 2013) from EarthSky Facebook friend D.R. Keck Photography.

Saturn as captured by the Cassini spacecraft in early February 2014.  Cassini has been in orbit around Saturn since 2004.  Many awesome images!

Saturn as captured by the Cassini spacecraft in early February 2014. Cassini has been in orbit around Saturn since 2004. Many awesome images!

Saturn from evening dusk until wee hours after midnight. Earth passed between Saturn and sun in May 2014, placing Saturn opposite the sun in our sky. That event marked the middle of the best time of year to see Saturn. This month, as seen from northerly latitudes, the ringed planet Saturn is found to the south to southwest at nightfall and early evening. This golden-colored world shines in front of the constellation Libra the Scales.

Let the moon help guide you to Saturn for several night nights, centered on July 7.

Binoculars won’t reveal Saturn’s gorgeous rings, but a small telescope will. This month, Saturn is highest for the night at nightfall and should be a fine telescopic object at early evening. Saturn’s rings are inclined at about 21o from edge-on in July 2014, showing us their north face. Several years from now, in October 2017, the rings will open most widely, displaying a maximum inclination of 27o. As with so much in space (and on Earth), the appearance of Saturn’s rings from Earth is cyclical. In the year 2025, the rings will appear edge-on as seen from Earth. After that, we’ll begin to see the south side of Saturn’s rings, to increase to a maximum inclination of 27o by May 2032.

By the time dawn came to the western half of the U.S. this morning (February 26), the moon was below Venus.  Even light pollution couldn't diminish the view of them.  Photo from our friend Christy Sanchez in Denver.  Thanks, Christy.

Venus is bright. Even light pollution can’t diminish the view of it. Photo from our friend Christy Sanchez, in Denver, on February 26, 2014. Thanks, Christy.

You don't need a nearby moon to find Venus.  It's the brightest planet and very noticeable when it's above the horizon.  Here is Venus on April 23, 2014 as captured by Asthadi Setyawan in Malang, East Java, Indonesia.  Thank you, Asthadi!

You don’t need a nearby moon to find Venus. It’s the brightest planet and very noticeable when it’s above the horizon. Here is Venus on April 23, 2014 as captured by Asthadi Setyawan in Malang, East Java, Indonesia. Thank you, Asthadi!

Venus before sunrise throughout July. Venus beams in the eastern predawn sky throughout July 2014. At mid-northern latitudes, it rises about two hours before sunup all month long. Venus will continue to shine as the morning star until late September or early October 2014.

Use the slender waning crescent moon to help you find Venus in the morning sky for several mornings, centered on July 24.

You need a telescope to observe the phases of Venus. Whenever you see Venus in the morning sky, it is always moving away from Earth and its phase is continually waxing (getting broader). The phase of Venus will be hard to discern now, though, through a small telescope, because this world appears nearly full to us. This month, Venus’ disk starts out about 85% illuminated and ends the month about 92% illuminated. Believe it or not, Venus shines at or near its brightest in the morning (or evening) sky when its disk is about one-quarter lit up in sunshine. That’s because, at such times, the disk of Venus is always larger in our sky than when the planet appears full. Venus’ illuminated portion last covered the greatest square area of our sky on February 15, when its disk was 26% illuminated.

Nonetheless, Venus is always bright. It will remain the brightest starlike object in the morning sky for months to come!

Mercury and moon, by GregDiesel Landscape Photography

Mercury and moon on February 27, 2014, by GregDiesel Landscape Photography. Greg managed to catch Mercury just at the beginning of its long March 2014 apparition in the predawn sky.

Mercury at dawn, starting around July 11. The middle part of July presents the optimal time for spotting Mercury at morning dawn, as this world rises approximately 90 minutes at his juncture. Acute observers may be able spot Mercury until nearly the end of the month.

Let Venus help you find Mercury in July, 2014, as the solar system’s innermost planet is found below Venus and rather close to the horizon. Binoculars may come in handy, although this planet is actually visible to the unaided eye in a clear sky. The waning crescent moon will also help out before sunrise on July 24 and July 25.

What do we mean by visible planet? By visible planet, we mean any solar system planet that is easily visible without an optical aid and that has been watched by our ancestors since time immemorial. In their outward order from the sun, the five visible planets are Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. These planets are visible in our sky because their disks reflect sunlight, and these relatively nearby worlds tend to shine with a steadier light than the distant, twinkling stars. They tend to be bright! You can spot them, and come to know them as faithful friends, if you try.

Bottom line: In early July 2014, three of the five visible planets – Jupiter, Mars, Saturn – are visible in the evening sky. The two morning planets – Venus and Mercury- appear in the east as darkness is giving way to dawn.

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Debra Fryar in Calobreves, Texas captured this photo of the moon and Jupiter on May 31, 2014.  Jupiter was close to the twilight then.  In early July, Jupiter will be even closer to the twilight, about to disappear in the sun's glare.

Debra Fryar in Calobreves, Texas captured this photo of the moon and Jupiter on May 31, 2014. Jupiter was close to the twilight then. Jupiter disappeared into the sunset glare around mid-July 2014.

Jupiter and its four major moons as seen through a 10

With only a modest backyard telescope, you can easily see Jupiter’s four largest moons. Here they are through a 10″ (25 cm) Meade LX200 telescope. Image credit: Jan Sandberg

Jupiter and one of its moons, Io, on February 28, 2014 via Earthsky Facebook friend Derek Brookes.  Thank you, Derek!

Jupiter and one of its moons, Io, on February 28, 2014 via Earthsky Facebook friend Derek Brookes. Thank you, Derek!

Jupiter was rivaling the streetlights on December 29, 2013, when Mohamed Laaifat Photographies captured this photo in Normandy, France.

Jupiter was rivaling the streetlights on December 29, 2013, when Mohamed Laaifat Photographies captured this photo in Normandy, France. Visit his page on Facebook.

Jupiter and its four major moons as seen through a 10

With only a modest backyard telescope, you can easily see Jupiter’s four largest moons. Here they are through a 10″ (25 cm) Meade LX200 telescope. Image credit: Jan Sandberg

Skywatcher, moon, planet (looks like Venus) from Predrag Agatonovic.

Skywatcher, moon, planet (looks like Venus) from Predrag Agatonovic.

Venus on Dec. 26 by Danny Crocker-Jensen

Venus on Dec. 26 by Danny Crocker-Jensen

On the moonless evening of December 3, 2013, Chris Georgia took this gorgeous photo of the constellation Orion (above his head and left of the light pole), the planet Jupiter (brightest star-like object at left), and the Gemini stars to upper left of Jupiter: Castor (at top) and Pollux (at bottom). Thank you so much, Chris! View larger

On the moonless evening of December 3, 2013, Chris Georgia took this gorgeous photo of the constellation Orion (above his head and left of the light pole), the planet Jupiter (brightest star-like object at left), and the Gemini stars to upper left of Jupiter: Castor (at top) and Pollux (at bottom). Thank you so much, Chris! View larger

These are called star trails. It’s a long-exposure photo, which shows you how Earth is turning under the stars. The brightest object here is Jupiter, which is the second-brightest planet, after Venus. This awesome photo by EarthSky Facebook friend Mohamed Laaifat in Normandy, France. Thank you, Mohamed.

View larger. | Venus shining above the rock of Asseu, Gulf of Riva Trigoso, Sestri Levante, Ligurian Sea, Genoa, Italy, November 29, 2013, via Maranatha.it Photography.

View larger. | Venus shining above the rock of Asseu, Gulf of Riva Trigoso, Sestri Levante, Ligurian Sea, Genoa, Italy, November 29, 2013, via Maranatha.it Photography.

It's very difficult to pick out Mercury in the evening during the autumn months, but it can be done.  This photo of Mercury is from autumn 2012.  Notice how deeply buried the planet is in twilight.  Photo by EarthSky Facebook friend Gary P. Caton.  Thank you, Gary!

It’s very difficult to pick out Mercury in the evening during the autumn months, but it can be done. This photo of Mercury is from an evening apparition of Mercury last autumn: October 22, 2012. Notice how deeply buried the planet is in twilight. Photo by EarthSky Facebook friend Gary P. Caton. Thank you, Gary! See more sky photography from Gary P. Caton.

View larger. | Mars and moon as seen from Hong Kong on October 2, 2013 via EarthSky Facebook friend Matthew Chin.  Thank you, Matthew!  Mars is getting easier to see, but it's still pretty close to the sunrise, and it's relatively faint in contrast to how bright it will become in 2014.

View larger. | Mars and moon as seen from Hong Kong on October 2, 2013 via EarthSky Facebook friend Matthew Chin. Thank you, Matthew!

View larger. |  EarthSky Facebook friend Peter Wong in Adelaide, Australia captured this image of planets and the star Spica in the west after sunset on September 26, 2013.  As seen from the Southern Hemisphere - where it's spring now - the planets are straight up above the sunset.  Thank you, Peter!

View larger. | EarthSky Facebook friend Peter Wong in Adelaide, Australia captured this image of planets and the star Spica in the west after sunset on September 26, 2013. Thank you, Peter!

View larger. | Moon and Venus on September 7, as captured by EarthSky Facebook friend Ken Christison in North Carolina.  Thank you, Ken!  On Sunday evening - September 8 - the moon will appear much closer to Venus.  The Americas, in particular, will get a dramatically close view of the pair.

View larger. | Here are the moon and Venus on September 7, 2013 as captured by EarthSky Facebook friend Ken Christison in North Carolina. Thank you, Ken!

View larger. | Mercury, Venus and Jupiter seen when evening fell in Hong Kong earlier today - June 1, 2013 - by EarthSky Facebook friend Matthew Chin.  Awesome shot, Matthew!

View larger. | Mercury, Venus and Jupiter seen when evening fell in Hong Kong earlier today – June 1, 2013 – by EarthSky Facebook friend Matthew Chin. Awesome shot, Matthew!

View larger.  |  From left to right, Jupiter, Venus and Mercury as seen last night, May 24.  EarthSky Facebook friend Duke Marsh captured this photo in Clarksville, Indiana.

View larger. | From left to right, Jupiter, Venus and Mercury as seen May 24, 2013. EarthSky Facebook friend Duke Marsh captured this photo in Clarksville, Indiana.

View larger. | The two brightest objects in this photo - and in your evening sky on May 12, 2013 - appeared to be the waxing crescent moon and Jupiter.   In reality, an even brighter planet - Venus - was also up, but buried in bright twilight.  Photo by EarthSky Facebook friend Daniel McVey.

View larger. | The two brightest objects in this photo – and in your evening sky on May 12, 2013 – appeared to be the waxing crescent moon and Jupiter. In reality, an even brighter planet – Venus – was also up, but buried in bright twilight. Photo by EarthSky Facebook friend Daniel McVey.

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