Woman stargazing with telescope

Minnesota Skies

Our local guide to observing celestial objects and events

July 2018

It’s show time for the visible planets this month. Venus still glows brilliantly low in the west all month around 9 or 9:30 pm. Mercury can best be found on July 14th, at 9 pm. when it is just below a thin crescent Moon. Use binoculars. Or you can look between July 1 and 14 as Mercury hovers about 16 degrees below right of Venus.

Jupiter gleams in the south around 10 p.m. on the 1st but has moved to the southwest by the 31st.

Yellowish Saturn glows in the southeast moving to the south at the same times mentioned for Jupiter. Moon pairings listed in the highlights will help you identify those two planets.

Telescope image of Saturn by amateur photographer Marciel Bassani Sparrenberger

Image of Saturn, by Amateur Astronomer Marciel Bassani Sparrenberger

Now is an excellent time to observe Saturn and its rings through a telescope.

But Mars tops the charts as it nears its closest approach to Earth since 2003. On July 31 Mars will be 0.385 AUs from Earth (1 AU or Astronomical Unit is the average Earth-Sun distance or about 93 million miles) so Mars will be just 36 million miles from Earth.

Artist rendering of Mars’ distance from Earth

Now go enjoy nature’s free sky show and be sure to stop by the new Bell Museum from July 14th on and ask our planetarium folks to show you where to look.

Sky-lights

Detailed information on this month’s sky pairings and highlights.

July Highlight Comments
1-31 Bright Venus still brilliant 9 to 9:30pm, West
1-31 Mars continues to brighten all month
1 Ruddy colored Mars to the right of the Moon 12:30am, Low SE, 4:30am, S
1 Mercury 16 degrees below right of bright Venus 9:15pm, Low W, use binoculars to spot Mercury
14 Mercury just below very thin crescent Moon 9 pm W, use binoculars
20 Jupiter just below the Moon 10pm, SW
24 Saturn below left of Moon 10pm, SSE
26 Mars 10 degrees below left of Moon 11pm, SE
27 Mars 7 degrees below right of Moon 11 pm, SE
30-31 Mars is the brightest since 2003 10 pm, Low SE

Resources

When viewing planets, stars or constellations in the night sky, it is helpful to use a sky map.

Minnesota Starwatch is another great resource for tracking the night sky.

Meet up with other stargazing enthusiasts via Twin Cities Sidewalk Astronomers, MN Astronomical Society & MN Institute for Astrophysics.