The 13P/Olbers comet

With the passing of the Summer Solstice on June 20, the Earth starts to tilt away from the Sun and the night starts to lengthen. On the Summer Solstice, the Sun rose at 5:46 a.m. and set at 8:20 p.m. That means we received about 14 hours and 34 minutes of daylight.

On July 1, the Sun rises at 5:50 a.m. and sets at 8:21 PM, meaning the nights are about three minutes shorter. Not a huge difference, but those little changes add up until the Winter Solstice on December 21, when the Sun rises at 7:07 a.m. and sets at 4:52 p.m. On the Winter Solstice, we only receive about nine hours and 45 minutes of daylight. Appreciate the sunlight while we have it!

July is a good month for checking out some of the deep-sky objects (DSOs) that appear in the NE skies about an hour after sundown.

The Iris Nebula, NGC 7023 is about 1300 light years away from us. Its visual magnitude is +7.0 (which means you’ll need a good pair of binoculars to spot it.) The bright star in the center of this DSO is HD 200775. The light-colored areas surrounding the star are the result of HD 200775’s light being refracted by clouds of cosmic dust. NGC 7023 is about 6 light-years wide.

This is NGC 6946, the Fireworks Galaxy. It has a visual magnitude of +8.9 and is about 22 million light years from us. It is believed to be about 20 thousand lightyears in diameter. It’s called the Fireworks Galaxy because 10 supernovae have been observed in it during the past 100 years. That’s five times as many as the Milky Way.

NGC 7023 and NGC 6946 appear to be in the same area of the sky. For anyone who wants to try to find them with binoculars, this chart might help.

What you can look for in July’s Night Skies

You might be able to spot Mercury and Venus near the western horizon just after sundown on July 1. Venus will be very close to the setting Sun and will probably be difficult to see. Don’t try looking for it until the Sun is fully below the horizon – even a setting Sun can damage your eyes! But, Mercury is a couple of degrees higher in the sky and should be visible if the skies are clear. It will appear just south of the Gemini Twins, Pollux and Castor. Mercury has a visual magnitude of -0.5 making it significantly brighter than the Twins (Pollux’s magnitude is +1.22 and Castor’s is +1.55.)

There is a comet, 13P/Olbers, about 20 degrees above Castor. If you want to observe it, you’ll need binoculars or a telescope. I took some pictures of it a week ago and it really didn’t have a well-defined tail, but that should develop as the comet approaches the Sun.

Starting at 11:50 p.m., a steady line of planets will rise in the eastern skies, led by Saturn. Neptune is second at 12:21 a.m., followed by Mars at 2:27, Uranus at 2:52, and Jupiter at 3:39.

The Delta Aquariids meteor shower peaks on July 28, but you can expect to see activity from it as early as the 18th. Look for them a little lower than and to the right of Saturn. You can expect about 20 shooting stars per hour. The best viewing is from 1:00 to 3:00 a.m.

Moon Phases:

New Moon is July 5

1st Quarter is July 13

Full Moon is July 21

Last Quarter is July 27

The post Night Sky: Delta Aquariids meteor shower, visible planets, and more highlights for July appeared first on Island Free Press.

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Credit: Original content published here.

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