by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Comet NEOWISE joins the gibbous moon and four bright planets in the July morning sky.
Comet NEOWISE (formally known as Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE) is moving away from the sun and vaporizing in the bright sunlight. The debris is pushed away from the sun, forming a comet’s famous tail. The comet is in the morning sky for a few more days, then moves into the western sky after sunset.
In the planet parade, about an hour before sunrise, the bright gibbous moon appears in the south.
Jupiter and Saturn are retrograding in eastern Sagittarius. This morning they are 6.5° apart. As they retrograde, the gap gets larger. With a binocular watch Jupiter move away from 56 Sagittarii (56 Sgr on the photo) and Saturn extend its separation from Sigma Capricorni (σ Cap). In September, these giant planets reverse their apparent direction and Jupiter passes Saturn for a Great Conjunction on December 21, 2020.
(If you expand the image above, three of Jupiter’s largest moons are visible is tiny points of light. Ganymede and Europa are to the upper left, while Io is to the lower right of Jupiter.)
Earth passes between Jupiter and the sun (opposition) on July 14 and Saturn six days later. This planetary pair can be found in the southeast about 2 hours after sunset, when they have moved above the trees and other terrestrial obstacles.
Meanwhile, Mars is moving eastward in the constellation Cetus. The Red Planet moved into this constellation yesterday and stays there for 19 days before it moves back into Pisces.
This morning it is near 10 Ceti (10 Cet) in the starfield. With a binocular watch Mars move away from this dimmer star.
Being farther eastward, Earth passes between Mars and the sun on October 13, 2020.
Venus is in the northeast among the stars of Taurus the Bull as it appears to be moving through the Hyades star cluster. The cluster and the star Aldebaran make the sideways “V” of the head of the Bull. This morning the brilliant planet appears 1.6° to the upper right of Aldebaran. With a binocular watch the planet move closer to the star during the next few mornings.
Get your cameras ready for July 17, when the moon groups with Venus and Aldebaran. With the Hyades star cluster and Pleiades star cluster, this will be a picturesque view.
Mercury joins the parade beginning July 19 when the “Classic 9” planets are in the sky simultaneously with the moon, at about 45 minutes before sunrise.
For more about the planets see this article about where to find them during July.