Backyard Astronomy: July 2015

Here are some fun astronomical events you and your family can enjoy in the month of July. All you need is an inexpensive telescope or binoculars for most of these events, but some of them are viewable with the naked eye.

July 1: Conjunction of Jupiter and Venus. A conjunction occurs when two or more planets overlap, or appear very close together, in the sky. This year’s closest conjunction is in July when Jupiter and Venus will appear to be less than half a degree — the diameter of the full Moon — away from each other. This will be a good one to view through a small telescope.

July 28-29: Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower. Meteor showers occur when the Earth moves through a cloud of debris left behind by a comet. The Delta Aquarids are debris from the comets Marsden and Kracht. The shower will peak on the night of the 28th and the early morning of the 29th. This is an average meteor shower that would normally give a decent show, but will largely be washed out by a nearly full Moon. You can still catch a few meteors if you’re persistent. Look in the direction of the constellation Aquarius after midnight for your best chance.

July 31: Blue Moon. A Blue Moon is a second full Moon in a calendar month. They’re sort of rare, but not super-rare, hence the phrase, “Once in a Blue Moon.”