By Dr. Bob Doyle, Frostburg State Planetarium

Garrett County Skies for July 2020 by Bob Doyle, Emeritus, Frostburg State University

Earth is farthest from sun on July 4 with a matching Full moon, Jupiter and Saturn are closest to Earth in mid July,

July opens with an Oakland sunrise at 5:52 a.m. and an 8:47 p.m. sunset. The sun is in Gemini through July 21, then shifting into Cancer for the end of the month. July ends with a 6:17 a.m. sunrise and an 8:30 p.m. sunset.

On July 2, the moon appears near the bright pink star Antares (of Scorpion). On July 4, the Earth is farthest from the sun at a distance of 94.5 million miles. There is a variation of only 3 per cent in the Earth-sun distance during the year. The reason for our seasons is the tilt of the Earth’s axis. In early summer, our area is tipped towards the sun, causing the sun’s high sky path and long daylight hours. In early winter, our area is tipped away from the sun, causing the sun’s low sky path and short daylight hours.

July 4 is also the date of July’s full moon. The moon then is in the star group Sagittarius, giving it a low sky path. The moon peaks about a third of the way up in the south in the middle of the night (about 1 a.m.). The light of the full moon complements the light of the sun. When the sun is high, the full moon is low and vice versa.

On July 5, the moon appears underneath the bright planet Jupiter in the late evening sky. On the next evening, the moon is below and to the left of the planet Saturn. On July 11, the moon will have moved near the planet Mars in the early morning sky. On July 12, the brilliant planet Venus appears close to the bright star Aldebaran in the eastern dawn.

On July 17, Venus and Aldebaran are joined by the crescent moon.

On July 14, the planet Jupiter is closest and brightest, at a distance of 35 light minutes or 391 million miles.

On July 20, it’s Saturn’s turn, at a distance of 75 light minutes or 837 million miles. Both planets are best seen in the middle of the night when they are highest in the South. Jupiter is accompanied by it’s 4 large moons, which appear as small points of light near Jupiter. The planet Saturn’s rings can be seen with a telescope magnifying 40 power.

The moon shifts from the morning to the evening side of the sun on July 20 (New Moon) – the start of a new lunar cycle. Over the next 7 days, the moon grows from a razor-sharp crescent to half full on July 27. Along the lighted left edge of the moon, the sun there is rising, lighting up the raised rims of the craters while the surrounding low regions are still in darkness. On July 29, the moon again appears near the bright pink star Antares of the Scorpion.