EYES TO THE SKY: Navigating a summer night
July 9 – 22, 2018
Mount Washington — In early twilight, within half an hour of sunset when the western sky is pale blue, planet Venus turns our heads to receive its brilliant light, now 15 degrees above the horizon. Tonight, the 9th, Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation Leo the Lion, is in conjunction with Venus: When twilight deepens, see “the little king,” a glimmer just one degree to the lower left of Venus’ great light.
Before Regulus appears, after we first spot Venus, planet Jupiter beckons from the upper left of our field of view, 32 degrees above the south-southwest skyline. Then, Arcturus emerges above and to the right of Jupiter, forming a triangle with Jupiter and Venus. As the sky darkens and Venus loses altitude, we discover the Big Dipper above both Venus and Arcturus. The far edge of the Dipper’s bowl points to the dimmer but easily seen North Star, also known as Polaris. Estimate five increments out from the width of the bowl to alight on Polaris.
Returning our gaze to Jupiter, a glance to the planet’s left, due south, reveals the glowing red star Antares. Further left, east of Antares, the next bright object we encounter is planet Saturn.
Beyond and below Saturn, increasing in brilliance every night, Mars rises above the southeast horizon at 10 o’clock tonight and by 9 p.m. on the 22nd (later in hilly terrain.) The exceedingly bright, red planet is not to be missed as it travels the sky all night and is visible above the southwest horizon at dawn.
Note that sunset is around 8:30 p.m. through mid-July and nightfall is around 10:30 p.m. Stars and planets that are rising along the eastern skyline come up a few minutes earlier every day, while stars and planets that are setting in the west disappear from the sky earlier every day.