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July Astronomical Highlights: Five Planets and a Micromoon
By Kelly Kizer Whitt
Known since ancient times, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn can normally all be seen with the naked eye. Greeks called them "wandering stars" or "asteres planetai." This July, all five move into positions that make for optimal viewing.
Start looking west just after sunset. Venus will be the first object to stand out in the fading twilight, shining brilliantly as it sinks toward the horizon. Look to the lower right of Venus to spot Mercury, which will be even closer to the horizon than Venus.
From July 3 to 4, Mercury passes through the Beehive Cluster. On July 9 and 10, Venus skims the top of Regulus in the constellation Leo. Bag these two planets early in the evening because they will set as the rest of the planets shift across the sky, first rising in the east and then gliding above the southern horizon. On July 14, the crescent moon is near Mercury, and the next night it sidles up to Venus.
Look for Jupiter as it gets dark—the red giant will be halfway between rising and setting, closest to the south. Jupiter and the moon hang out on July 20. Usually Jupiter is the second-brightest planet in the night sky, but this month Mars is so close and bright it sneaks into second place. However, it doesn't rise until Mercury and Venus are setting.
You'll find Saturn in the southeast, drifting through the thickest part of the Milky Way Galaxy. Use binoculars or a telescope to see its rings and search the region for deep-sky delights. If you don't have binoculars or a telescope, look at the stretch of the Milky Way below Saturn and see if you can make out the Great Rift, a dark area created by thick clouds of gas and dust that blocks the stars behind it from shining through. Saturn and the moon keep company on July 24.
Lastly, Mars will be rising in the south-southeast just as Mercury disappears on the opposite side of the sky. Mars' close proximity to Earth right now makes it appear especially large and bright, although with your eyes alone, Mars will still mostly look like a reddish-orange dot. The planet reaches opposition July 27 just a few hours before the full moon. At that time, the moon also happens to be at apogee, or its farthest point in its orbit around Earth. This is the opposite of a supermoon, and it's sometimes called a micromoon. Many casual observers can't tell the difference between these variations in full moon sizes, but a micromoon can look up to 14 percent smaller than a supermoon.
Earth reaches aphelion, its farthest point from the sun, on July 6 at 9:47 a.m. PDT. Even though in North America we're farthest from the sun at this time of year, we experience some of the warmest temperatures, because the Northern Hemisphere is tilted toward the sun, and we receive more direct rays and longer hours of sunlight.
Both a total lunar eclipse and partial solar eclipse occur in July, though neither within range of the Western Hemisphere. The total lunar eclipse on July 27 will darken the moon in India, Africa and Europe. The partial solar eclipse on July 13 will only be visible for those in the Southern Ocean, south of Australia.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Anita Desikan
The Trump administration is routinely undermining your ability — and mine, and everyone else's in this country — to exercise our democratic rights to provide input on the administration's proposed actions through the public comment process. Public comments are just what they sound like: an opportunity for anyone in the public, both individuals and organizations, to submit a comment on a proposed rule that federal agencies are required by law to read and take into account. Public comments can raise the profile of an issue, can help amplify the voices of affected communities, and can show policymakers whether a proposal has broad support or is wildly unpopular.
Picture this: a world where chocolate is as rare as gold. No more five-dollar bags of candy on Halloween. No more boxes of truffles on Valentine's day. No more roasting s'mores by the campfire. No more hot chocolate on a cold winter's day.
Who wants to live in a world like that?
By Tracy L. Barnett
Sources reviewed this article for accuracy.
For Sicangu Lakota water protector Cheryl Angel, Standing Rock helped her define what she stands against: an economy rooted in extraction of resources and exploitation of people and planet. It wasn't until she'd had some distance that the vision of what she stands for came into focus.