All information presented here is taken from my 74 page book
Nightscenes 2018 which is available to order from our web shop and all good book stores! Note we can no longer supply printed copies as we’ve run out but a pdf version is now available from our web shop. A kindle version is also available from Amazon UK
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.
Mercury lies in the evening twilight for the first half of July. Venus lingers in the western evening twilight and is close to Regulus on the 9th. Ceres drops into the evening twilight and is harder to view. Jupiter dominates the rest of the evening sky over near Alpha Libra. Pluto is at opposition on the 12th. Saturn and Vesta are well placed in the evening sky. Neptune and Uranus are viewable in the morning sky. The Moon rises totally eclipsed on the 27th near to Mars which is at opposition, the closest since 2003. The Southern Delta Aquariids meteors are spoiled by the Moon.
The evening twilight for the first couple of weeks finds bright Venus and the fading Mercury low in the western sky so check out the chart at left. The crescent Moon lies to right of Mercury on July 14th and lower right of Venus on July 15th (also close to Regulus), so at least on the 14th if Mercury is too faint for the naked eye then the Moon will guide you to it with a binocular.
Jupiter remains the other dominant planet and well seen now it is in the evening sky. The Moon lies to its upper right on the 20th with the nice double star, Alpha Libra to Jupiter's left as shown at right.
It helps to put the binocular on a tripod for stability.
In a small telescope Jupiter shows the two major bands, North Equatorial and South Equatorial belts and with care you may even glimpse the Great Red Spot, although it can often look like a pale oval in small instruments. Larger telescopes will pick out more finer banding, plumes and other subtle details making the planet very rewarding to view along with the motions of the Galilean moons.
Saturn is well placed if still a little low on the ecliptic passes between Mu and Lambda Sagittarius on the 15th then the Moon lies to its right on the 24th so easy to spot.
Saturn is now better placed to view as it was at opposition last month on the 27th so viewable now in the evenings. If there is one planet you really should take a look at through a telescope then the Ringed Planet is the one as there is nothing else in our solar system quite like it when you see the rings for yourself. The chart here shows the main features to look out for. Even in a spotting scope or large binocular you can just make out that Saturn is special in that it appears elongated.
To add to the fun, a large binocular or a small telescope will also show Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, orbiting around the planet taking 16 days to complete one orbit. Time of when it is furthest from Saturn are shown above so do try to track it down.
Here we see the evening view looking ~ S with the Moon passing Jupiter, Antares and Saturn. It is shown daily at 10pm and lies to the upper right of Jupiter on the 20th then above Scorpius and Antares on the 22nd before lying to the upper right of Saturn on the 24th. Note the Moon is shown 5 times larger on the chart than in real life!
But now two solar system worlds come to opposition in July, Pluto and Mars on the 12th and 27th respectively. Pluto is naturally a very faint world and is mag 14.5 lying in Sagittarius to the left of the Teaspoon asterism. Its path here is shown from June 1st through to October 31st and you will need an eight inch or larger telescope for visual observation but smaller telescopes with a DSLR or CCD camera can image it. Pluto will lie above the 5.6 mag star 50 Sgr on the late evening of July 3rd so a good way of trying to identify this dim distant world.
Now for MARS! The ‘Red Planet’ has been steadily brightening and moving through several constellations low on the ecliptic such as Scorpius and Sagittarius and it is now in Capricornus, heading for its closest encounter with the Earth since 2003. That year it was its closest to us in 60,000 years and was an impressive sight with a disk size of 25.1 arc seconds (”) on the night of August 26th/27th 2003. This year on July 31st Mars will be at its closest again and should be 24.3” so not far off that previous record size. There should be plenty of details to view along although recentlya major dust storm kicked off obscuring some of the main features!
For those with large telescopes or into astrophotography, a chance to also spot its two moons of Phobos and Deimos. The image above was taken by the author on Nov 13th 2005 when Mars was a bit better placed for the northern hemisphere, but visually the August 2003 apparition was still stunning.
Mars begins July with the gibbous Moon above it as they rise just before midnight but clear the horizon by 1am on July 1st. The next morning the Moon occults Gamma Capricornus for most of the British Isles so check the details on the occultation link above.
In the time it takes the Moon to orbit the Earth and come back round to where Mars lies, the red planet is retrograding and is at opposition in the early hours of July 27th. That evening as they rise together in the SE, there is something special happening, the Moon rises totally eclipsed. The chart here shows both July 1st and 27th around an hour after rising and the Moon on the 27th is shown in eclipse. More details on the Lunar Eclipse can be found using the eclipse link above. At opposition Mars will shine at mag -
For more about Mars check out the Mars link here.
Also look out for the following:
Jul 2nd Moon occults Gamma (g ) Cap (morning) See Occultation link above.
Jul 4th Moon lies south of Neptune and close to Psi1 Aqr (morning)
Jul 8th Thick crescent Moon lies very close to Xi2 Ceti (morning)
Jul 10th Crescent Moon occults Hyadum 1, Gamma Tau (morning) See Occultation link above.
Jul 19th First Quarter Moon lies above Spica (evening)
Jul 28th Moon lies to left of Mars and close to Iota Cap (evening)
Jul 30th Southern Delta-
Clear skies and happy sky watching.
The UK & Ireland Night Sky for 2018
Earth is at Aphelion (furthest from the Sun) on July 6th when it will be at a distance from the Sun of 152 million km or 95 million miles.
Webmaster © Paul L Money 2018
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