July Sky chart, Northern Hemisphere gazer's guide

All month: Now that Mars is near opposition, it rises very nearly at sunset and doesn't set until daybreak. It competes with Venus after dark, with Jupiter from midnight on, but it can't be mistaken for either one. The early evening sky finds Venus in the west while Mars comes out of the growing darkness in the east. Within a few hours Venus is down, but Mars moves up into the southeast, with Saturn, Antares, Spica, and Regulus stretching up the sky to its right, and Jupiter rising in Pisces behind it. By dawn, the leaders have dipped below the horizon in the west, and only Mars and Jupiter remain.

The events described in the calendar below are given in local time unless indicated otherwise.

July 1: The moon begins the month in Aries, just barely visible for a day or so, as dawn creeps up behind it.

July 4: Apogee moon (farthest from Earth).

July 5: The sun may be scorching today, but Earth is at aphelion (greatest distance from the sun).

July 6: At 11:55 EST tonight the new moon comes along.

July 8: Mercury begins its retrograde (westerly) motion.

July 10: The crescent moon joins Venus in the evening. Look east (opposite Venus) when you see them to find Mars rising. The star near Venus is Regulus.

July 12: The autumnal equinox, located about midway between Spica (in Virgo to the left) and Regulus (to the right in Leo) is very near this evening's moon.

July 13: Jupiter shifts celestial gears today from normal (easterly) motion to retrograde (westerly).

July 15-16: The moon waxes larger and stays later each night as it works east through Libra. Mars is nearest Earth (during this cycle) on the 16th.

July 17: The moon slips through the gap between Saturn (above) and Antares (below) but doesn't quite make it by Antares. About 11 p.m. EST the moon covers the star at a point above the horizon in western North America.

July 18-21: The moon and Mars are in Sagittarius. Perigee moon (nearest Earth) is on the 19th, and full moon is at 5:40 a.m. EST on the 21st.

July 22: The moon rises in Capricornus about 9 p.m. EST. Jupiter follows it up about 11. Any time later, look across the sky from Jupiter to the right, past the moon, then Mars, Saturn, Antares, and Spica, and eventually to Regulus before it sets. They trace out the plane of the ecliptic, Earth's orbit.

July 23: Mercury becomes a morning ``star.''

July 24-25: Jupiter and the moon rise together late at night. The moon moves slowly to the left beneath the planet as they both work westerly together.

July 28: Last quarter moon (at 10:34 a.m. EST) is in Aries.

July 31: The moon is at apogee, this time in Taurus.

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