If you’re up early, enjoying the relative coolness of the predawn and dawn hours on these July 2014 mornings, be sure to look east before sunrise to catch the planets Venus and Mercury. They’ll be low in your eastern predawn sky some 75 to 60 minutes before the sun comes up. Venus, the brightest starlike point of light in all the heavens, outshines Mercury by leaps and bounds. But Mercury is still plenty bright, shining on par with the sky’s brightest stars. Start with the waning crescent moon and draw an imaginary line through dazzling Venus, to locate Mercury near the horizon.
By the way, it’s now nearly a month past the June solstice, the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere. However, it’s probably just as hot – if not hotter – than it was a month ago. People often ask why the hottest weather of the year comes after the year’s longest day, on the solstice.
Although the June solstice does indeed have the most moments of daylight for us in the Northern Hemisphere, it does not – in most places – have the hottest weather. Why? The reason is that Earth’s land and oceans take some time each year to heat up after the cold winter months.
That’s why the hottest weather of the year lags for weeks or even months behind the longest day. It’s the same reason that it’s generally hotter in mid-afternoon – say around 3 p.m. – than at noon.
With respect to the passage of the months of the year, this phenomenon is extremely well known. It even has a name. It’s called the lag of the seasons.
Bottom line: Get up early any morning from mid- to late July 2014 and enjoy the relative coolness of early morning, with the planets Venus and Mercury! Beginning around July 20, the moon will be edging toward the planets in the predawn sky.