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    Articles > July 2002
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Bad Astronomy

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  Monthly Sky Guide: July 2002
With the exception of Venus most planets this month will be difficult to view let alone find. Determined skywatchers will require the use of binoculars to see the Jupiter-Mars and Mercury-Saturn pairings.

VENUS shines brilliantly in the western sky throughout July. Look for the Evening Star about 45 to 60 minutes after sunset. Apart from the Moon, Venus is the brightest object in the night sky. By the end of the month Venus will brighten slightly (mag. -4.2) but it will also be somewhat lower in the evening sky. Between July 9-10th Venus will pass near the bright star Regulus (mag. 1.4). A few nights later, on July 12th, North American skywatchers will see the crescent Moon to the upper right of the two.

JUPITER is located low in the west-northwest evening sky in early July. By mid-month the giant planet will be lost in the Sun's glare. However, binocular observers may be able to catch a glimpse of Jupiter and much dimmer Mars together on July 3rd. The pair will be located to the lower right of Venus and just above the west-northwest horizon about 30 minutes after sunset. Good luck!

MARS fades to magnitude +1.8 and is located very low in the west-northwest evening sky. Best chance to view will be on July 3rd when Mars pairs with much brighter Jupiter.

MERCURY is found in the morning sky during the first half of the month. Look for the elusive planet low in the east-northeast sky about 30 to 45 minutes before sunrise on July 2nd when it will form a very close pair with the ringed planet Saturn. The two planets will easily fit within the field of view of a medium-power telescope. However the view will certainly be spoiled by poor seeing conditions due to the low elevation.

SATURN in the morning sky shines at magnitude +0.1 all month. On July 8th Saturn will be just below the thin crescent Moon.

EARTH is at its farthest from the Sun (aphelion) at 4:00 UT (midnight US Eastern Daylight Time) on July 6th, at which point the distance between the two bodies will be 152.1 million kilometers (94.5 million miles) as measured from their centers. At perihelion (closest) on January 4th 2003 the separation will drop to 147.1 million kilometers (91.4 million miles).

Clear skies till next month!

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