NORTHLAND STARGAZING: I'm one (Uranus) year old
Three years ago this month, I wrote "Unlike closer Uranus, Neptune can be seen only with optical aid, so it is unlikely that any sleepless prehistoric nomad, like my fictional Raki,* identified
Neptune as a "wanderer" 10 millennia ago. Uranus revolves around Sol in 84.3 Earth years; you know people who have been around longer than that."
Turns out I've now been around just over one Uranus year. Nobody has been around for one Neptune year, 164.8 Earth years.
Don't bother looking for Jupiter in July. It is now disappearing into the sunset. It will be exactly on the far side of Sol on July 24. The next largest local planet, Saturn, is well up in the SSW, east of Mars, which passes white Spica, in Virgo in July. Mars is brighter than Spica, but will dim as we leave it behind in our faster trip around Sol.
The two inner planets are pre-dawn objects. Venus, our Morgenstern, rises about the start of morning twilight all month. For the next few days, it will be above and left of Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus, an orange giant that has exhausted the hydrogen in its core, where it now fuses helium, and has expanded to about 44 times Sol's diameter. It is about 65 light years away.
Mercury will be to Venus's lower left in July, but is close to the ENE horizon at first. It will reach greatest elongation on July 12, and will be closest to Venus on July 16. It will brighten after its
greatest elongation as we see more and more of its sunlit side.
On July 4, Luna will be about first quarter, between the Mars/Spica pair and the western horizon. By July 7, it will be near Saturn. Luna will be full July 12, so will interfere with evening stargazing from about July 6-14.
Most globular clusters lie on a rough sphere well out from our galactic plane but centered on its core, which lies in Sagittarius, hidden from us by gas and dust. Sagittarius is above the SSE horizon now, which means many globulars are in view. Many can be barely seen with the naked eye, so use binocs. The easiest, Messier 13, lies on the west side of the "keystone" in Hercules, near the keystone's NW corner, right overhead about 10:30. Two others, about as bright as M13, are harder to find. M3, in the dim constellation Canes Venatici, can best be found by scanning just a bit west of north from reddish Arcturus in Boötes. M5, in Serpens, is a somewhat greater distance SSW from Arcturus. M22, both brighter and actually larger than M13, is just above and left of the "lid" of Sagittarius's "teapot," above the SSE horizon. M4, just right of red Antares in Scorpius, is closer to us than the others, making its stars easier to resolve in a good telescope. Find dark skies, and go look at the Milky Way. Since we're facing its center in Sagittarius, July
and August are the best months to view it. Use DEET.
*If you are new in town and curious about Raki, email me: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Evan Hazard, a retired BSU biology professor, also writes "Threescore and Ten" for The Pioneer's Prime Time section.