Believe it or not, that's the sound made between Saturn and its moon Enceladus. Buzz60
The sky news this week features four planets and a partial solar eclipse. The solar eclipse is on Friday and we won’t see it from Guam, but the thing I find really interesting about this eclipse is that essentially, nobody will see it. It’s visible only over the extreme southern Pacific Ocean between Australia and Antarctica. They’ll see a partial eclipse in Tasmania and the penguins in Wilkes Land will see it, but that’s about it. Makes you wonder if our planet should be called Ocean and not Earth.
We still have four planets in our early evening sky but Mercury reaches maximum elongation, its farthest distance above the horizon for this trip, on Thursday, July 12. That means that by the end of the month it will disappear from the early evening sky and reappear in the early morning sky.
Venus, as usual, is hard to miss high above the western horizon as it begins to grow dark. So go out around 7:30 p.m. any night this week and find the two planets closest to the sun. There will still be a little light, but only the clouds will stop you from seeing Venus and Mercury.
Since there’s a solar eclipse on Friday even if nobody sees it, that must mean that new moon is also on Friday and the waxing crescent moon will join Mercury and Venus in the western sky this weekend. The moon will appear quite close to Venus next Monday.
But Venus and Mercury aren’t our only evening planets. Turn 90 degrees to your left and face south. You’ll see Crux the Southern Cross tilted over on its right side and Alpha and Beta Centauri will definitely look like eyes to the left of the Cross. Measure four fist-widths up from Alpha and Beta Centauri and you’ll find Jupiter, your third planet.
Below and to the left of Jupiter, you’ll see that giant fishhook hanging in the sky. Its official name is Scorpius the Scorpion, of course, but there are no scorpions in the Pacific and all Pacific cultures called it what it really looks like; a fishhook. To the left of the hook, you’ll see Sagittarius the Archer which looks a whole lot more like a teapot than a centaur holding a bow and arrows. The center of our galaxy, the Milky Way lies right off the teapot’s spout and the whole area is worth exploring with your binoculars.
The teapot’s lid is a triangle of stars and you might also want to use your binoculars to have a look at that ‘star’ that’s just above the top of the triangle because it isn’t a star. It will probably look elongated because your binoculars aren’t powerful enough to separate Saturn’s rings from the planet. Yes, that’s Saturn, your fourth planet.
Have a look at Jupiter with your binoculars. You’ll see two, three or four bright little stars in a line next to the planet. They aren’t stars either; those are Jupiter’s four big moons: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.
Oh, and if you get engaged in looking at the planets and you’re out after 8:30 p.m. or so this weekend you just might see a very bright yellow star in the eastern sky close to the horizon. That’s not a star and it isn’t supposed to be yellow. It’s big news and I’ll tell you all about it next week. Don’t miss a single Starry, Starry Night!
Pam Eastlick is the Star Lady.
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