The Sky Above You – July 2019


By Duncan Lunan



The Moon will be New on July 2nd and Full on July 16th, when it will rise about 9 p.m. during a partial eclipse. At its greatest extent the Moon will be almost two-thirds covered by the Earth’s shadow, around 10.32 p.m., and the eclipse will end about midnight.


At the beginning of July the planets Mercury and Mars will be low in the evening sky after sunset, to the left of Castor and Pollux in Gemini, almost in line with them, and with the Moon near them to the left on the 4th, but the planets will be very hard to see from Scotland due to our latitude and the time of year. All four are lost to view by mid-month, and Mercury will overtake the Earth at inferior conjunction with the Sun on the 21st.


Venus still rises about 4.00 a.m., shortly before sunrise, near the waning Moon on the 1st. Both Mercury and Venus will be passed by the Moon on the 31st, but too close to the Sun to be visible.


As noted above, Mars in Cancer disappears completely by mid-July.


Jupiter in Ophiucus sets about 2.30 a.m. after being passed by the Earth in June. Jupiter is near the Moon on the 13th, with Saturn to the left and Antares in Scorpius to the right.


Saturn in Sagittarius is at opposition on July 9th, at its closest to us for the year and due south at 1 a.m. (midnight GMT/UT). Saturn is near the Moon on the 16th..


Uranus in Aries rises about 00.30 a.m..


Neptune in Aquarius rises about 11 p.m., moving westward towards opposition in September.


This is the best time of year to watch for the strange phenomenon of noctilucent clouds in the northern sky after dark, because the atmosphere is still sunlit at high altitudes - ‘astronomical twilight’ lasts all night in Scotland in June and July. This also means that the International Space Station can be seen passing over at any time of night – check for times at your location on www.heavens-above.com.


The Astronomers of the Future Club meeting on Thursday July 25th will be the launch of Duncan Lunan’s next book, “From the Moon to the Stars”, a collection of space travel stories old and new to mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. As usual the meeting will be from 19:15 to 21:00 hrs at the RSAS Barassie Works Club, 4 Shore Road, Troon, KA10 6AG. For more details, contact Alan Martin on 07947 331632.


Duncan’s recent books are available from the publishers, on Amazon or through booksellers; details are on Duncan’s website, www.duncanlunan.com.




The Sky Above You


By Duncan Lunan


About this Column


I began writing this column in early 1983 at the suggestion of the late Chris Boyce.   At that time the Post Office would allow 1000 free mailings to start a new business, just under the number of small press newspapers in the UK at the time.   I printed a flyer with the help of John Braithwaite  (of Braithwaite Telescopes)  offering a three-part column for £5, with the sky this month, a series of articles for beginners, and a monthly news feature.   The column ran from May 1983 to May 1993 in various newspapers and magazines, but never in more than five outlets at a time, although every one of those 1000-plus papers would have included an astrology column.   Since then it’s appeared sporadically in a range of publications including The Southsider in Glasgow and the Dalyan Courier in Turkey, but most often, normally three times per year, in Jeff Hawke’s Cosmos from the first issue in March 2003 until the last in January 2018.   It continues to appear monthly in Troon's Going Out, with other outlets pending.


 The monthly maps for the column were drawn for me by Jim Barker, based on similar, uncredited ones in Dr. Leon Hausman’s “Astronomy Handbook”  (Fawcett Publications, 1956).   Jim had to redraw or elongate several of them because they were drawn for mid-US latitudes, about 40 degrees North, making them usable over most of the northern hemisphere.   The biggest change needed was in November when only Dubhe, Merak and Megrez of the Big Dipper, as the US version called it, were visible at that latitude.   In the UK, all the stars of the Plough are circumpolar, always above the horizon.   We decided to keep an insert in the January map showing the position of M42, the Great Nebula in the Sword of Orion, and for that reason, to stick with the set time of 9 p.m., (10 p.m. BST in summer), although in Scotland the sky isn’t dark then during June and July. 


To use the maps in theory you should hold them overhead, aligning the North edge to true north, marked by Polaris and indicated by Dubhe and Merak, the Pointers.   It’s more practical to hold the map in front of you when looking south and then rotate it as you face east, south and west.   Some readers are confused because east is on the left, opposite to terrestrial maps, but that’s because they’re the other way up.   When you’re facing south and looking at the sky, east is on your left.  


The star patterns are the same for each month of each year, and only the positions of the planets change.   (“Astronomy Handbook” accidentally shows Saturn in Virgo during May, showing that the maps weren’t originally drawn for the Hausman book.)   Consequently regular readers for a year will by then have built up a complete set of twelve.





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