June 27, 2024

AstroCal – July 2024


     Just to recap a little of what has been going on in the realm of Meteorology in the Upper Peninsula,  suffice to say we had a winter with the lowest snowfall totals since the early 1930s.  About the time everyone began worrying about the effects of the low amount of snow melt on the water table and the increased potential for wildfires, it began to rain.  Perhaps not quite as much as the Biblical flood that landed Noah and his clan on Mount Ararat, but enough to see flash flood warnings posted in greater numbers than normal.  When four inches of rain fell on the Ontonagon area in 24 hours, it saturated the ground so much that the ditches, creeks, and streams were overwhelmed (not to mention some basements and the Ontonagon Golf course).  A minor addition of an inch of rain on top of the saturated ground had nowhere to go so the flood warnings were posted again.  Let us hold our breath until we see what July and August have in store for us.

     Enough whining about the weather.  Astronomically speaking, the evening sky continues to be less populated with planets than it was most of the winter.  Mercury will be visible low in the WNW in the 40 minutes after sunset.  If you can spot the very Young Crescent Moon in that same direction on July 6, Mercury will be shining at mag -0.3 just to the left and slightly above the Moon.  On July 7, the Moon will be directly above Mercury.  Venus will slowly start to emerge in the WNW near the end of the month.  On July 31, it will be hugging the horizon to the right of Mercury in the hour after sunset.  Being that low in the sky, Venus will set only 51 minutes after sunset but viewing will improve in August.  Our observing challenge for July is to note the earliest date one can see Venus playing hide and seek in the WNW.

     Morning sky watchers will find Jupiter above the ENE horizon in the hour before sunrise.  Faster moving Mars will begin the month 22 degrees to the upper right of Jupiter and by the end of the month, that distance will be reduced to only 7 degrees.  On July 1, all five outer planets will be visible in the morning twilight.  In order in which they will be found (from W to E) is Saturn, Neptune, Mars, Uranus, and Jupiter.  On July 31, this five planet array will cover 86 degrees of the morning sky.

     Saturn’s Rings can be seen with a telescope in the south at dawn.  The Rings are tipped about 2.0 degrees from edge-on as we move closer to Mach 23, 2025.  At that time, the Earth will pass through the Ring Plane.  This 2025 view will not be visible to us, however, as Saturn will only be 10 degrees west of the Sun, making observation impossible.  By the time it moves into a more favorable viewing position, the Rings will be slightly tipped toward the Earth.  Earth reaches aphelion (our farthest point from the Sun) on July 5 when the distance between us will be 94.5 million miles.

     Lunar dates for July include the previously mentioned Young Crescent near July 6 (preceded by the New Moon on July 5), the First Quarter (July 13), the Full Moon (July 21), and the Last Quarter Moon (July 27).  Our historical astronomical event also involves the Moon.  On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin (with Command Module pilot Michael Collins orbiting above) made the first manned landing on the Sea of Tranquility.  It is hard to believe that this historic even took place 55 years ago this month.  No firm date has been set for the next humans to trod upon the Lunar surface (developing new technology is never easy, is it?) but let us hope it happens before the sixtieth anniversary of this great moment in our history of exploration.  

Compiled by Ken Raisanen of WOAS-FM – information provided by Abrams Planetarium Sky Calendar, Michigan State University.  More information and subscription information can be found on their website at or on X (formerly Twitter) at  Yearly subscriptions cost $12 and can be started anytime.

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