The RASC supports a number of observing programs and initiatives designed to help members and others get the most out of their involvement with amateur astronomy. The RASC's Observing Certificate program provides you with a structured program that will allow you to explore the night sky and earn a certificate in the process. Observing sections allow members to find out more information about specialized observing topics. Finally, selected resources are provided to help you get the most out of your observing experience.
The RASC's Observing Programs are supported and managed by the RASC Observing Committee. Participation in this committee is welcome. To reach the committee you may e-mail the Observing Committee Chair.
The Solar System This Month
The Solar System: July 2015
As July begins, the Moon starts out at full phase and appearing quite large, as it is at perigee (closest to Earth in its orbit). For us, it’s a very close approach. On the 12th, Aldebaran is within a degree of the Moon–another occultation, this time closer to home, but mostly in the extreme north. By the 25th, Saturn joins up with our satellite in the southern evening sky. And, by the 31st, the Moon is full again.
Mercury is an early morning object for the first half of the month, best for southern observers.
Venus puts on a show at its maximum brightness, joined by Jupiter in the western evening sky on both the 1st and the 31st. The separation is much greater on the latter part of the month as Venus has turned the corner in its orbit and is beginning to fall toward the Sun. The two planets appear to be the same size, only because Venus is much closer than the distant Jupiter. The very slender Moon slides by Jupiter and Venus on July 18, the third occultation of the month, this time in the South Pacific.
Mars is not visible as it is behind the Sun. Conjunction is on the 14th.
Jupiter is low in the western sky, joining with Venus at the beginning of the month and shadowing the bright planet for all of July, but getting further and further away with each passing day. Watch for a photo opportunity on the 18, with Jupiter, Venus, and the Moon all within a few degrees of each other.
Saturn is well placed in the evening sky, rising at sunset. The 1st is another photo-op, with the full Moon rising and Saturn just a little off to the upper right. Again, on the 25th, the gibbous Moon joins Saturn in the south.
Uranus appears in the eastern sky around midnight. Watch for a close approach of the Moon on the 8th.
Neptune rises in the late evening, crossing the sky all through the night.
*The New Horizons spacecraft has been nearing its planned encounter with Pluto, having traveled over 7.5 billion km to the outer reaches of the Solar System since January 2006. NASA set out a list of things it (and the planetary science community) wanted to know about Pluto: What is its atmosphere made of, and how does it behave? What does the surface of Pluto look like? Are there big geological structures? How do particles ejected from the Sun (known as the solar wind) interact with Pluto's atmosphere? The on-board instruments are poised to answer these questions as the spacecraft hurtles by on July 14 at 58,536 km/h.*
*image courtesy of nasa.com