July Skies – by Dick Cookman

Highlights: Comet Journal, Martian Landers, Meteor Showers, Planet Plotting, July Moon
Focus Constellations: Ursa Minor, Draco, Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Camelopardalis, Ursa Major, Coma Berenices, Virgo, Bootes, Corona Borealis, Hercules, Ophiuchus, Aquila, Lyra, Cygnus

Comet Journal

C2020 T2 (Palomar) is between 10th and 11th magnitude and was closest to Earth on May 12. It is in Virgo in July and will slowly dim as it retreats from the Sun after perihelion on July 10. heading eastward along the ecliptic and returning to the Oort Belt,On it’s 7.5 year orbit, Comet Faye visited Jupiter and, in July, graces our midnight skies in Aries at 11th magnitude. Faye is closest to the Sun in September and closest to Earth in December. Comet 8P/Tuttle (2021) is another Jupiter family comet, moving from Auriga to Gemini at 10th magnitude in July. Perihelion is in late August and closest approach to Earth is in September. Comet 15/P Findlay in Aries moves to Taurus in July at 9th magnitude. Closest approach to Earth was on June 17 and perihelion is on July 13.

Mars Landers

Perseverance rover is more than a babysitter for its Ingenuity Mars Helicopter. The rover’s mission includes a nine mile journey across the floor of Jezero Crater which is former lake bed. The destination is a delta at the edge of the crater which may contain evidence of former life on the planet. Ingenuity will function as a scout to complement the rover’s navigational systems. Perseverance is Curiosity on steroids. The navigational systems are beefed up, wheels have been upgraded, higher clearance permits safer travel over rough ground and rocks, and a much more robust autonomous route planning and hazard avoidance capability results in a six times faster speed for the journey.
Although the dust coating on the solar panels of InSight’s lander was partially ameliorated by measures taken by mission scientists, most scientific instruments will be shut down as Mars approaches aphelion on July 12. After the travel delay in May due to difficulties in closing a reluctant dust cover and stowing the remote sensing mast, Curiosity departed from Mont Mercou at the base Sulfate Unit and resumed its ascent of Mt. Sharp. During June, the rover made daily observations as it ascended a few hundred meters and positioned itself for the next drilling campaign.

Meteor Showers

July Meteor showers are in southern skies and have to compete with the waning gibbous Moon, so they will be rather unimpressive. July 27 will host the Piscis Austrinid and the Delta Aquarid showers. The Alpha Capricornids occur on the 29th.

July 27: Piscis Austrinids. Active July 15 – August 10, Radiant 22h44m -30°, ZHR 5. 35km/sec. Waning Gibbous Moon, Progenitor: Comet Kiess (C/1911 N1)
July 27: Delta Aquarids. Active July 12 – August 19, Radiant 22h36m -16°, ZHR 20, 41 km/sec. Waning Gibbous Moon, Progenitor: Comet 96P Machholz
July 29: Alpha Capricornids. Active July 3 – August 15, Radiant 20h28m -10°, ZHR 4. 23km/sec. Waning Gibbous Moon, Progenitor: Asteroid 169P/2002 EX12 (NEAT)

Planet Plotting

Morning planets include Mercury (+1.0 to -1.9) in Taurus and Cancer, Uranus (+5.8) in Aries. Neptune (+7.9 to +7.8) and Jupiter (-2.5 to -2.7) in Aquarius, and Saturn (+0.4 to +0.2) in Capricornus. Get an early start on Independence Day celebrations when Mercury (magnitude 0.6) is at maximum western elongation and rises almost 1.5 hours before the Sun in Taurus. In the hour before dawn in July, Uranus can be found high in the southeast in Aries with binoculars which, when turned to the south-southwest, might also reveal Neptune in extreme eastern Aquarius which rises at midnight. Bright Jupiter is next, in central Aquarius, and Saturn can be seen farther west in Capricornus.

Evening planets are Venus (-3.8) and Mars (+1.8) which move from Cancer to Leo in July and are less than a degree apart at 3:00AM EDT on the 13th.
The waning crescent Moon is 4.0° from Mercury at 1:00AM EDT on the 8th and 1.8° from Uranus at 8:00PM EDT on the 31st.. A waxing crescent Moon is 3.0° from Venus at 5:00AM EDT and 4.0° from Mars at 6:00AM EDT on the 12th The waning gibbous Moon is 4.0° from Saturn at 1:00PM EDT on the 24th, 4.0° from Jupiter at 9:00PM EDT on the 25th, and 4.0° from Neptune at 2:00PM EDT on the 27th.




Planet Passages




Pisces, Aries


New Moon

 0:17PM EDT



Taurus, Cancer

+1.0 to -1.9




4:00PM EDT



Cancer, Leo


Mars, 0.5°S

3:00AM EDT


Cancer, Leo


Venus, 0.5°N    3:00AM EDT     7/9


-2.5 to -2.7



+0.4 to +0.2






+7.9 to +7.8

July Moon

July’s New Moon on the 9th at 9:17PM EDT marks the start of Lunation 1219 which ends 29.52 days later with the New Moon of August 8 at 9:50AM EDT. The Full Moon of July is on the 23rd at 10:36PM EDT. It is commonly known as “Hay or Thunder” Moon. In colonial times, the July Moon was the “Summer” Moon and, in Medieval England, it was the “Mead” Moon.” Chinese call it “Hungry” Moon and Celts named it the “Claiming” or “Corn” Moon.
Of the 13 Grandmother Moons during each year, the Anishinaabe (Odawa & Ojibwe) people recognize the seventh Moon as “Miin-giizis” (Berry Moon). It is also called “Mskomin-giizis” (Raspberry Moon) and has the following associated cultural teaching that explains the cycle of life and nature during the seventh Moon. “When great changes begin, by learning gentleness and kindness, we may pass through the thorns of the raspberry bush and harvest its fruit, the knowledge that will help in raising our families.”
Lunar Apogee (maximum lunar distance) is on July 5 at 6:47AM EDT, The Moon will be 251,867 miles from Earth. Perigee distance (minimum lunar distance) is 226,503 miles on the 21st at 2:24AM EDT, 2.6 days earlier than Full Moon. Even though the Full Moon occurs when close to the perigee point in its orbit, thus appearing larger and brighter than normal, the July Full Moon is not a Supermoon like those of March through June. The Moon is slightly beyond the arbitrary 226,00 miles mile distance established for a Supermoon.




Moon Passages

Moon Phase

Moon Age

Sun Gemini


9:17PM EDT, 7/9 New 0 Days
Mercury Taurus


4.0°N, 1:00AM EDT, 7/8 Waning Crescent 27.75 Days
Venus Leo


3.0°N, 5:00AM EDT, 7/12 Waxing Crescent 2.32 Days
Mars Leo


4.0°N, 6:00AM EDT, 7/12 Waxing Crescent 2.36 Days
Jupiter Aquarius


4.0°S, 9:00PM, EDT, 7/25 Waning Gibbous 15.99 Days
Saturn Capricornus


4.0°S, 1:00PM EDT, 7/24 Waning Gibbous 14.65 Days
Uranus Aries


1.8°S, 8:00PM EDT, 7/31 Waning Crescent 21.95 Days
Neptune Aquarius


4.0°SE, 2:00PM EDT, 7/27 Waning Gibbous 17.70 Days