This month is a busy time for our solar system!
Firstly, it’s Neptune’s Birthday! For over a hundred years, Neptune has been a confirmed planet, yet is just now finishing its first complete solar cycle! It takes Neptune about 165 years to go full circle on the arc around the sun! When Pluto was sadly demoted from planet status in 2006, Neptune became the farthest planet in our system.
On July 12th, Tuesday, if you have a telescope, or even a good pair of binoculars, you should be able to spot Neptune in the very early morning. Those familiar with the brightest star in Aquarius will have no trouble locating the planet Neptune in the late evening/ early morning sky.
One should also note that this area would be roughly the best place to look for the peak of the Aquarid meteor shower later this month, which takes place around Delta Aquarii. The best time to take advantage of viewing this is around 3:30am (EST) on July 29th, in the southern part of the sky. This shower will be viewable from late July to early August.
Other planets this month are Mercury and Saturn, which will be visible throughout this entire month, with Mercury moving way in August, and Saturn staying visible until October of this year.
In the northern hemisphere, the best viewing is to the west at dusk, for Mercury the best night to view it is the 19th, with Saturn staying well visible until the fall. You can see both with the naked eye, but if you have the aid of a telescope or other optic device, it will certainly enhance your viewing!
Lastly, Mars, Venus, and Jupiter will also be visible in the very late evening and early morning, pre dawn hours. You should be able to view them unaided, but as previously stated, some kind of viewing enhancement would be best.
Jupiter will be the first you’ll be able to see starting around midnight (EST) followed by Mars around 2am (EST) and finally Venus will be visible between 4am (EST) and sunrise. Venus may be especially difficult to see due to the proximity of twilight. Using the moon as a starting point, you can locate them especially easily during the week of the 24th.
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