The bright star near the moon on July 1, 2014 is Regulus in the constellation Leo. The brilliant planet Jupiter is below and to the right of the moon and Regulus on this night, as seen from the N. Hemisphere, as darkness begins to fall. Then wake up early any day in the next several days to see the dazzling planet Venus coupling up with the star Aldebaran before sunrise. Click here to skip down and read more about Venus.
Bring along family and friends to help you spot the waxing crescent moon 30 to 40 minutes (or sooner) after sunset. Regulus will be easy to see near the moon, when it gets dark enough. To see Jupiter, you’ll need an unobstructed horizon in the direction of sunset. Bring along your binoculars to scan for Jupiter close to the horizon around 40 to 50 minutes after sundown. Then see if you can spot the planet with the eye alone, as the sky darkens.
Need hints for catching Jupiter? The bow of the crescent moon points to Jupiter’s place near the horizon. Also, be sure to include the youngsters in your Jupiter search, for their young eyes may well catch the moon and Jupiter better than yours, possibly as soon as 30 minutes after sunset. Although Jupiter ranks as the second-brightest celestial object in the evening sky, after the moon, it’ll be a challenge catch this world in the glare of twilight in early July 2014. Jupiter follows the sun beneath the horizon about an hour after sunset.
If you don’t know which way is west, remember that west is simply the direction of sunset.
About that star near the July 1 moon … it is nowhere near as bright as Jupiter, but it’s one of the brightest stars in the sky. Jupiter outshines Regulus – a blue-white beauty of a star – by about 18 times. Yet Regulus will probably be the easier to see of these two celestial luminaries, because Regulus is higher up in the sky at sunset and stays out longer after dark.
Since ancient times, Regulus has been regarded as the most royal of the four Royal Stars: Regulus, Antares, Fomalhaut and Aldebaran. Regulus probably enjoys this status because it’s the only first-magnitude star to sit almost squarely on the ecliptic – the sun’s apparent path in front the constellations of the Zodiac.
Enough of the evening sky. Now let’s look at the morning sky.
Venus is always dazzling, but even more interesting on these early July mornings near the star Aldebaran, another of our sky’s brightest stars. Get up an hour or so before sunrise in early July to see them. Aldebaran is the brightest star in the constellation Taurus the Bull. If the twilight dawn is too overpowering, use binoculars to locate Aldebaran close to Venus, which pales next to the brightest planet and third-brightest object to light up the heavens, after the sun and moon. At present, Venus shines about 80 times more brightly than Aldebaran does.
Bottom line: Look for the moon, Regulus and Jupiter after sunset on July 1, 2014 and then for Venus and Aldebaran before sunrise in the coming days.