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Southern Cross Stargazer for July

Pluto.
Pluto.

Here is what you can expect to see in the skies this month.

Evening

Brilliant Venus, the white-hot Evening “Star,” ends her rare dance with Jupiter in the west 0.6 degrees apart. They set late evening. Overhead, westbound Arcturus (red giant star) sparkles beyond the tip of the Big Dipper’s handle in the north. Corona Borealis, a stellar necklace, twinkles a few degrees behind Arcturus. Jupiter leads Leo, Lion, lower in the west. Corvus, Crow, flies across the southwest ahead of the star Spica, SpringMaiden, in Virgo.

The stars of Libra follow Spica. Silver Saturn, encircled in icy rings, now enters Libra. Huge Scorpius crawls across the south. Bright Antares, a red supergiant hundreds of times larger than our sun, is the “heart” beating in the Scorpion’s torso.

The Sagittarian Teapot (center of our Milky Way Galaxy) follows Scorpius. Vega, in Lyra the Harp, leads the vast Summer Triangle higher in the east. Altair is the southern point star and Deneb is the northern point star of the Triangle. The celestial “birds of summer” glide across the sky. Cygnus, Swan, soars within the Triangle. Altair, in Aquila the Eagle, is the southern point star of the Triangle. Corvus, Crow, drifts lower in the southwest.

Binoculars will reveal a myriad of deep sky objects shimmering in the south. The Summer Milky Way (River of Stars) arches from southeast to northeast, visible from a very dark sky site. Pluto, surrounded by five satellite moons, floats in the stellar Teaspoon upper left of the Teapot.

NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft will complete its nine-year voyage to image Pluto on July 14. Dim blue Neptune rises in the southeast, in Aquarius, just before midnight.

July 1: Venus and Jupiter separate by 1 degree in the west. The Thunder Moon is full at 10:20 p.m.

July 6: At 4 p.m. Earth reaches its greatest distance from the sun by 94.5 million miles.

July 8: Last Quarter Moon occurs 4:24 p.m.

July 15: New Moon occurs 9:24 p.m.

July 18: Last good views of Jupiter low in the west. Young moon floats 0.4 degrees below Venus. Final pairing of Venus and and the moon until 2018.

July 25: Moon leads Scorpius across the south.

July 31: Venus sets half-hour after sunset. The Blue Moon (second full moon within a month) rises in the southeast at sunset. The South Delta Aquarid Meteors may be visible radiating from the southeast before midnight.

Morning

July 11: At dawn, the old crescent moon rises in the east to the right of the Pleiades.

July 12: The moon floats 4 degrees above Aldebaran. Great view in binoculars!

July 24: First Quarter Moon occurs at 12:04 a.m.

July 28: The Gemini Twins: Castor and Pollux rise in the east-northeast. Dim Mars appears lower right of the Twins.

July 31: The 2nd Blue Moon becomes full at 6:43 a.m. The Southern Delta Aquarid Meteors may be visible until dawn.

Special events

Friday, July 17, FIU and the Southern Cross Society host a free Key West Star Party, 8 p.m. at the school’s main campus. See live NASA images of Pluto in CP-145 lecture hall with prizes, Key lime pie, soft drinks and music. For more information, call 305-348-3964.

Saturday, July 18, the Society hosts a Galactic Bar-B-Que from 6 to 8 p.m. with “out of this world” hot dogs, burgers, sodas and more at the D’Auria Observatory, 23325 SW 217th Ave., Homestead. No lights, litter, pets or alcohol. Bring chairs, bug repellent, binoculars, telescopes and a potluck dish. Call 305-439-1351 or visit scas.org for more information.

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