Astronomical SIGHTS Coming to a SKY NEAR YOU!

Graphics c/o Starry Night Education

This page updated July 22, 2018.

See the HOME page or COMING EVENTS for daily listings.

VIS. COMETS page has more details and finder charts for currently visible comets.

The Planets for July/August/Sept 2018:

The only planet in the evening sky has been Venus for a while but this month Mercury re-appears in the west. It is at its farthest from the Sun on July 12. Look for it near the lunar crescent on July 14.

In addition, both of the gas giants,
Uranus and Neptune have come out from behind the Sun in the east and are getting above the horizon for viewing by around midnight or so. They get higher as the summer progresses.

Venus continues as the prominent Evening Star in the west until well into late summer. Venus tracks eastward along the ecliptic for the rest of the spring, passes the Pleiades around April 26 and crosses Taurus in short order. It passes into Gemini in May (close pass to ε-Gem May 27) and by June is tracking through Cancer passing almost through the Beehive Cluster on June 19. By the end of the summer it is found in Leo and makes a close 1° pass at Regulus July 9. There is a nice collection of crescent Moon, Venus, Regulus and Mercury in the sky July 15.

Jupiter has reached opposition (May 7) and Saturn and Mars appear in the east before midnight. Jupiter hangs around in Libra while Mars will have slipped into Capricornus by the end of July when it reaches its opposition. Saturn sitting above the Teapot lid changes the appearance of Sagittarius noticeably. This summer will be the time to watch Mars especially as it gets closest to us this summer (since 2003) and largest and brightest in our sky for many years.

Saturn stays above the Teapot of Sagittarius for the next several months and as it brightens this year towards its opposition in June, it makes for a nice companion for Mars.

Pluto is in Sagittarius right between Mars and Saturn and visible only in moonless sky and with larger telescopes. Finder charts are found on our CHARTS/FORMS page.

July/August/September 2018 Sky Sights

Jupiter well up, Saturn opposition June 27, Mars July 27
Jupiter is the first star (after Venus) to poke through twilight in the early evening after the Sun goes down. The King of Planets will be featured in several of the BAS Dark of the Moon viewing nights with the Great Red Spot visible on the planet. Saturn is next and then there is Mars, which will be the best this year than it has been since 2003.

Saturn opposition is June 27 and at magnitude 0.0 it is brightly shining to the left of the Milky Way near the lid of the Teapot. Saturn’s rings are tilted nearly the maximum they can be (26°) this summer. It will be a regular feature at summer star parties.

Mars reaches opposition July 27 and all three bright planets will be visible for much of the summer stretched along the ecliptic from SW to SE. The diameter of Mars will be steadily growing to a maximum of 24 arc seconds near opposition. This is bigger than the disk of Saturn (which ranges from 15 to 18 seconds at opposition) but not as big as Jupiter (31 to 45 seconds across). Surface features on Mars will become detectable easily this month as long as seeing is good (and there are no dust storms on the planet...) The only “fly in the ointment” this year is that Mars does not get more than 20° high above the southern horizon in Capricornus even at its best. So go out and observe often and hope for one or two nights when steady air prevails, the dust on Mars has settled (see
WEBLOG for the latest on that) and clouds don’t get in the way.

July 27, 2018
Mars reaches Opposition (magnitude -2.76 !)


The planet Mars has been brightening and growing in size in our sky up to now and reaches the culmination of its visibility tonight. Up to now we have had to wait until well into the evening to view Mars, but from now on, it is in the sky at sunset and in an hour or so climbs above the murky air near the horizon into good viewing position. This year, Mars is closer at just under 58 million km than it was since 2003. Brightness is a spectacular -2.76 and it is 24 arc seconds across. The only down side is that it is only 20° above the southern horizon when it reaches the meridian around 1 am EDT so features will be viewed through a larger column of turbulent air that at other oppositions. In any case, get out to view Mars often and there will be times when the atmosphere steadies down and allows glimpses of the surface features there. SkyNews magazine has a Mars viewing Guide here: Mars in 2018. See also more recent updates on Mars-viewing in WEBLOG.

Aug 12, 2018
Perseid Meteor Shower peaks
The peak night of this shower should see 90 meteors/h, and we have only a very thin Moon (4%) to contend with so this is undoubtedly the best meteor shower of the year! Many BAS members will be back from Starfest by now and there will likely be viewing at Fox but you only need a dark sky location with a view to the NE for meteor watching. Observe with your friends and family, it should be a good show. Here is an article about how to get the best out of meteor watching: Meteor shower 2018 guide S&T and how to watch: Watching Meteors
Also here is a one page download:
Meteor watching

The Perseid radiant appears at the head of Perseus and is the point from which meteors appear to stream. Think railway tracks converging at the horizon or snow flakes appearing to come from a point in front as you drive into them. Diagram by Sky&Telescope magazine.

Aug 17, 2018
Venus at Greatest Eastern Elongation
Venus gets farthest away from the Sun today, and continues to dominate the western sky at sunset, but she is gradually dropping in declination and lowering gin the sky as the weeks go by. Technically, tonight she stops moving eastward and starts the long trek back towards the Sun. Venus also drops towards the SW horizon a bit more each night, but continues to be a prominent Evening Star, however. The current phase is about 50% and Venus is half-lit, but this increases and She becomes more gibbous as fall progresses. This is not the point when Venus is brightest however. That occurs on Sep 21 and it will be -4.55 then as opposed to -4.32 on Aug 17.

Pasted Graphic

Aug 23, 2018
Double Shadow Transit on Jupiter

The two views from Starry Night below show the appearance of Jupiter during the shadow transits on Aug 24 (late Aug 23). Io and Europa are the moons involved and the first shadow to appear is Io’s at 10:02 pm EDT our so. The double shadow starts at 10:35 pm when Europa’s shadow appears, and there are two shadows on the planet until 12:07 am Aug 24, when Io’s shadow leaves the disk. Europa’s shadow departs 12:48 am Aug 24. The image right shows the shadows and the Great Red Spot at about 11:06 pm Aug 23 just a few minutes before Jupiter sets below our western horizon. Note the Red Spot appearing on the left limb of Jupiter. The left image shows the view at 10:35 pm just about the time that Europa’s shadow appears. See if you can see the disks of both Io and Europa against the clouds of Jupiter. They will be more obvious after they leave the disk (right). This double transit will be a challenge to observe because Jupiter is only 4° high (and dropping) at the start of the double shadow appearance. The Aug 1 BAS meeting wth Frank W. will provide some practical advice on how to image Jupiter. Incidentally, all four Galilean Moons will be on the same side of Jupiter Aug 23. Good luck with your observations.

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Aug 26, 2018
Mercury Farthest from Sun
When Mercury rises this August morning, it will be as far from the Sun as it can get and visible in dark sky for a hour or so before the twilight blots it out. At magnitude 0, it is the brightest “star” in the morning sky once it clears the horizon just after 5 am EDT. If you can get a look through a telescope at high power, it should show a phase like a FQ moon. By the second week of September it is too close to the Sun to view.

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Sep 9, 2018
Neptune at opposition
On this date, Neptune, the more distant of the two outer gas giants (the farthest official planet) reaches opposition on the same side of the Sun as Earth. In our sky it rises at sunset in the east and sets when the Sun returns to the sky at dawn. Neptune is located in Aquarius shining at magnitude 7.8 and visible in binoculars. Finder chart is found here: Neptune 2018


A summary of the entire 2018 year of ASTRONOMY events can be found here:
ASTRONOMY 2018 Events
An astronomical calendar for 2018 (with diagrams of sky sights like those above) will be available soon for download from Alan Dyer's website here: (look at the bottom of the "about Alan" page).