Minnesota Starwatch: July 2017

Venus reigns over the morning sky this month. The queen of planets rises two and a half hours ahead of the sun on July 1, with its lead growing to three hours by the 31st.

In the second week of July, go out before the sky starts to lighten and watch the V-shaped face of Taurus, the bull, graze Venus as it sweeps by the planet. Aldebaran, Taurus’s brightest star, marks the eye of the bull, but on the 12th Venus poses as the celestial bovine’s second eye.On the 20th, a waning crescent moon visits Venus—always a pretty sight.

Jupiter comes out in the southwest at nightfall, moving lower and more westward as the month goes by. On the 28th it, too, gets a moon visit, but from a thick waxing crescent. Saturn also comes out at nightfall, in the south between sinuous Scorpius, to the west, and the Teapot of Sagittarius, to the east. This is a great time to see Saturn and these constellations in the evening. Don’t miss the graceful Teaspoon of stars hanging over the handle of the Teapot.

Look high in the south to southwest for kite-shaped Bootes, the herdsman, anchored by brilliant Arcturus. Just east of Bootes hangs Corona Borealis, the northern crown, ornamented by Gemma (or Alphecca), its brightest star. If you have a star chart, try finding Libra, the scales, just west of Scorpius; and Ophiuchus, the snake handler, above Saturn and Antares. If you venture out before midnight, try to go between the 15th and the 27th or 28th, when interference from the moon will be absent or minimal.

July’s full moon rises at 8:31 p.m. on the 8th, reaching perfect fullness at 11:07 p.m. Algonquin Indians called this the full buck moon, for the sprouting antlers on buck deer, or the full thunder moon, as thunderstorm season is now upon us.

The University of Minnesota offers public viewings of the night sky at its Duluth campus. For more information and viewing schedules, see the Marshall W. Alworth Planetarium at: d.umn.edu/planet.—Deane Morrison