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What's Up In The Sky, July 2011

posted Jun 17, 2011, 12:22 PM by Marvin Stewart
               The year before Julius Caesar died he gave the world a revised calendar with twelve monthe and 365.25 days. He was honored in 8 B.C. by having the month of his birth, Quintilis, changed to Julius. Along the way Julius became July, the summer month we know today.
            The ever changing sky has several things of interest to the casual observer this month. In July the central bulge of the Milky Way is high in the southern night sky as it gets for those of us that live in Earth's northern hemisphere. If you were to observe it from a dark location on a moonless night the shadows on the ground would be cast by starlight. It impressed the author of the Biblical book of Job enough to mention it in Job 9:9 as "the chambers of the south" The ancient Mayans had an even better view of that area and they noted that the Sun entered it on the winter solstice, and it mystified them too. Remember in 2012 the world will come to an end when the Earth enters the rift in the Milky way, or was that last month? Never mind. I met a Gulf War veteran one night at Broemmelsiek Park and he said there were nights, in Iraq, you could read a newspaper by starlight, and he had wanted to try it.
           An observing tip you will find helpful is use the Moon as a pointer. As it moves along the ecliptic it comes near stars and planets and will help you find stars and constellations . On the night of the eighth the Moon will form a triangle with the brightest star in Virgo, Spica, to the east or left of the Moon. Above the Moon the bright yellowish object is the planet Saturn. Just to the right of Saturn is one of my favorite stars in Virgo,Porrima (pronounced like the sound a cat makes, Purr ima), the goddess of prophecy.  On the twelfh the waxing Moon will be above the bright reddish Antares, the alpha star in Scorpius. Antares is a red giant that if placed in the center of our solar system where the Sun is , Jupiter would be circling its outer edge. Scorpius looks like a giant capital J. To the Polynesians it was a fish hook. It will always be one of my favorite constellations because it is the second constellation I learned to recognize.
         On the nights of the thirteenth and fourteenth the nearly full Moon will act as brackets to surround the center of our galaxy. On the thirteenth it will be to the right of the center, on the fourteenth the left.
          In July 1846, Urbain Le Verrier of the Paris Observatory discovered the eighth planet, Neptune. On this July 12 it will complete its first full orbit since it was discovered 165 years ago.
         July 01   New Moon.
                02   Mercury can be found about 5 deg, above the Moon 9 p.m. CDT.
                08   First quarter Moon.
                15   Full Moon.
                23   Last quarter Moon.
                30   New Moon.