Welcome to the July night sky. Now that the warmer nights are here, one can enjoy a view of the magnificent summer Milky Way high in the southern sky, as well as the two brightest gas giant planets, Jupiter and Saturn.
When fully dark in July, Jupiter will be seen over towards the southwest and Saturn will be seen rising over in the southeast, with the Milky Way visible due south between the two.
On the 9th of this month, the ringed planet Saturn is at opposition and, therefore, at its closest to Earth. Through any telescope, the ring system of this planet is well visible, as at the moment the rings are tilted towards us at nearly their maximum extent. Saturn is in the constellation of Sagittarius and is nine times as far away from the Sun as our Earth is right now.
On the 2nd of this month, we have a total solar eclipse but only visible from the South Pacific area of our planet. Two weeks later, in the evening of the 16th, we have a partial lunar eclipse visible from Europe, and on the night of the 30th until the morning of the 31st the Delta Aquariid meteor shower can be seen – this is often the best meteor shower of July.
Late in June, it was announced by a team doing a sky survey from Calar Alto Observatory in Chile that they had detected the presence of two extra solar planets in orbit around a nearby star. These planets are of a similar size and temperature as our own world. This star is named after one of its discoverers, Mr. Teegarden, in 2003.
The amazing thing is that this star is relatively close to us at just 12 light years and was not found until recently. The fact is that this is a red dwarf star and it is so small and faint that it was simply overlooked until 2003, as it cannot be seen in any telescope smaller than 10 inches aperture.
This red dwarf star is in the constellation of Aries the Ram and its two planets orbit it much closer than the Earth orbits the Sun. These planets are called at the moment B and C, and B orbits in five days and C orbits in 11 days.
This red dwarf star, seen from the surface of planet B, will loom in this alien sky five times larger than the Sun is as seen in our own sky. And from planet C, the red dwarf will be three times larger than the Sun is in our own sky. Because this dwarf star puts out less than 1% of the heat of our Sun, it turns out that these exoplanets receive very approximately the same warmth as our own.
The actual surface temperatures of these new worlds will depend on any atmospheres they may have. And it is perfectly possible that they may be suitable for life as we know it. This new planetary system is three billion years older than our own and it may have had time to develop complex life.
The Moon is new on the 2nd, first quarter on the 9th, full on the 16th and last quarter on July 25.
To see the July Sky Map click on the pdf link below