Photo of the Week.Venus and Jupiter in an ocean of
Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, July 6, 2012.
We are only a few days past the full
phase of the Moon, which now, rising later and later, wanes in
its gibbous phase as it heads toward third quarter the night of Tuesday, July 10,
shortly before Moonrise in North America. It thereafter wanes as
a thinning crescent. There is
not much along the way for the Moon to visit other than dim Neptune (the
Moon a few degrees to the north) on Saturday the 7th and Uranus (the
same) on Tuesday the 10th. The Moon does, however, pass its apogee (when it
is a bit over five percent farther from us than average) on Friday
The planets perhaps do a more interesting job, with a pair in the
morning and another in the evening. The first of these is by far
the better, with Jupiter stacked
upon brighter Venus, the two
rising within about half an hour of each other around 3;30 AM
Daylight Time, shortly before the advent of dawn. Look especially
the morning of Tuesday the 10th to see Venus pass within a degree
of Aldebaran in Taurus with the Hyades just above the two.
Climbing yet higher we run directly into Jupiter, with the Pleiades on top of the pile, all
in all a remarkable sight for the morning viewer. And Venus is not
yet done, as it passes its greatest brilliance for the season,
magnitude -4.7, far brighter than any star, on Thursday the 12th.
With us the rest of the year, Venus loses little of its luster as
time goes by.
In the evening we have the two planets, Mars and Saturn, that
have been with us for so long. Mars, nicely between Regulus in Leo and Spica in Virgo, sets around midnight Daylight
Time. Saturn, to the north of Spica, goes down about an hour
later. There is still plenty of time to admire them both. Moving
the faster to the east against the starry background, the red
planet is slowly catching up with the ringed one, the two destined
for a nice conjunction in mid-August.