This total solar eclipse occurred over Ghana in 2006. Image credit: Roger Stoll
A new moon this weekend means that skies will be nice and dark for some good summertime observing. Unfortunately, where I live the mosquitoes are scaring all but the most dedicated inside.
One observing target this weekend will be bright enough to view even through the window. Venus, at magnitude -4.08 will lie just a bit more than a degree above Regulus on both July 9 and 10. The close pair will be found near the horizon in the west after sunset. Two other planets are a short distance to the left (south): reddish Mars and yellowish Saturn. My daughter and I braved the mosquitoes last week to catch Saturn in the telescope. Its rings are turned so that they seem to be pointed directly at us, which means we didn’t get a view of the wide expanse of the rings but instead it looked like two thin sticks were jutting out of the top and bottom of the planet.
On Monday, July 12, a young crescent moon can be spotted within a half hour after sunset until it too sets in the west. For the rest of the week the moon’s face will increase as it moves higher in the sky after sunset. On the 13th the moon is beside Regulus, on the 14th it’s below Venus, and on the 15th the 25-percent-lit moon is below Mars and Saturn.
On July 11, a total solar eclipse occurs as the moon passes directly in front of the sun for people located in the South Pacific. Despite the very narrow strip in a quiet patch of Earth that the shadow passes over, there is one well-known spot that will be directly in the path of the total eclipse. Easter Island will enjoy totality from 20:08 UT to 20:13 UT. Expect some beautiful photos to come out of this event!
Read more about summer observing.
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Kelly Kizer Whitt loves clean, clear, and dark skies. Kelly studied English and Astronomy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked for Astronomy magazine. She is currently the Feature Writer for Astronomy and Space at Suite101.com. You can follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/Astronomommy