All information presented here is taken from my 74 page book Nightscenes 2020 which is available to order from our web shop and all good book stores!
Click on the monthly image to get a larger high resolution view of the night sky set for 53° N (Horncastle, England) but is usable for the UK and Eire. All charts are set for the 1st of the month at 22:00 GMT (10pm) and can be used on the other dates and times shown in each corner of the chart.
Solar System quick summary
For most charts see the buttons at the top for various planets etc.. Charts & images in the text can be clicked to give a larger view.
This month we have two Gas Giants and two minor worlds come to opposition, Jupiter and Saturn, Pallas and Pluto. Mars is still a morning planet and for most of the month lies between Neptune and Uranus, both of which can be found in binoculars. Ceres is also slowly improving but is quite low in Aquarius roughly above Fomalhaut. Venus creeps into the morning twilight and passes through the Hyades cluster during the first week whilst improving during the month. Mercury puts in an early morning twilight view for the last two weeks of July.
Over the last couple of years we have been watching Jupiter steadily slide down the ecliptic and gradually catching up with its distant neighbour, Saturn. They haven’t quite met yet, but now come to opposition in the same month, indicating how close they are getting. The Moon is Full the morning of the 5th and is shown on our chart at left. Full Moon is another way of saying the moon is at opposition so the fact it is reasonably close to the two planets shows they will soon be at opposition themselves. On the 6th it lies forming a nice triangle with Jupiter and Saturn so it is worth staying up a little later to see them at their best in the south around 2am. Saturn is slowly moving and on the 8th it lies directly north of the globular cluster M75 and fits in the view of medium to high power binoculars or the view through a small telescope at low magnification.
So, Jupiter reaches opposition first, on July 14th which technically means it is viewable all through the night, although they are short light nights at the moment! It shines at mag -
Being bigger and closer, Jupiter shows more detail in a telescope but if you use binoculars you may also be able to spot Jupiter's Galilean moons, the four were discovered by Galileo in 1610 AD. Small telescopes will show them better as in the view above taken by the author.
A telescope will also begin to show detail on the planet and the main features are shown at left. The GRS appears to be shrinking slowly so if you see it then give yourself a pat on the back. The two main equatorial belts are usually the most prominent but with continued study other subtle details may be glimpsed if conditions are right.
Meanwhile Saturn moves from Capricornus back into Sagittarius on July 2nd as it is retrograding against the background star field and it comes to opposition on the 20th just six days after Jupiter. Saturn is fainter at mag 0.1 but that still makes it quite bright and noticeable, although Jupiter to its right is a bit of a giveaway! When a planet is at opposition it rises as the Sun sets and sets as the Sun rises so by months end both planets could now be said to be viewable in the (late) evenings.
Saturn’s main fame is the ring system which makes it look almost as big as Jupiter, yet the actual disk is smaller due to it being almost twice as far from us as the ‘King’ of the planets. On the planets disk look out for a North Polar ‘Hood’ and for a subtle dusky belt crossing the disk. The rings give Saturn its unique visual appearance in a telescope so look to see if you can spot the gap in the rings. This is the Cassini Division that separates the outer ‘A’ ring from the brighter and larger ‘B’ ring. It is also possible to note the shadow of the planet on the rings if you are careful with your studies.
Finally, in small telescopes and large binoculars you may spot Saturn’s largest moon, Titan so check out the details of where it will be in the chart below.
Meanwhile Venus can now be viewed for early rises in the morning twilight and there is a treat in store. The first week of the month it moves through the Hyades cluster then lies close to Aldebaran on the 12th before the crescent moon joins them for a stunning view on the 17th. Look around 3:30am towards the ENE as this will be a photo opportunity especially if you have a good camera on your mobile phone! Venus then moves on spending the rest of the month below the southern horn of Taurus.
We’re not quite done yet with this region as the slim Crescent moon occults the supernova remnant M1, also known as the ‘Crab’ nebula, on the morning of the 18th as seen here. The crescent moon lies above Zeta Tauri which in itself is a nice view. Again look around 3:30am +/-
As a bonus you may spot Mercury low down creeping over the horizon and the crescent moon lies forming a shallow triangle with it and Venus higher up as shown at left.
That leads us on to Mercury as it puts in an early morning appearance although it’s not at its best. Your first glimpse may be the events described above and the slim crescent moon lies above left of Mercury in bright twilight on the 19th ~ 4am so quite a challenge in the bright sky before sunrise. Mercury is always fainter at the start of its morning apparitions so improves over the course of the next few weeks into early August but at the same time it loops up then rapidly back down towards the horizon so you really need a good clear NE to ENE horizon if you want to spot it. Mercury is at greatest western elongation from the Sun on the 22nd when it will be just 20 degrees from it hence it is not a particularly good apparition and definitely one for early risers!
Also look out for the following:
2nd Moon lies above Antares (evening twilight)
13th Pallas is at opposition and viewable all night
15th Pluto at opposition and viewable all night with a large telescope
16th Crescent Moon forms triangle with M45 and Aldebaran (with Venus near to
the latter) (morning twilight)
25th Thick Crescent Moon lies above Porrima in Virgo (evening twilight)
26th Moon lies above Spica (evening twilight)
29th Moon forms triangle with Antares and Graffias in Scorpius (eve -
30th Southern Delta Aquarids peak, best early morning after moonset
31st Moon lies close to Kaus Borealis (Gamma Sgr) tonight
Clear skies, happy sky watching and stay safe!
Webmaster © Paul L Money 2020
The UK & Ireland Night Sky for 2020
Earth is at Aphelion (furthest from the Sun) on July 4th when it will be at a distance from the Sun of 152 million km or 95 million miles.
|Monthly Night Sky|
|Solar System Exploration|
|Northern Lights Flights|