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Saturday, 4 July 2020  •  Saturday, 13 Holly Moon 2020

Watching the night sky in Holly Moon 2020

22 June - 20 July 2020

Map of night sky at full moon: 5 July, 04:44 UTC
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Holly Moon 2020

The night and morning sky is full of very bright planets. Rising around sunset, opposite the sun, are Jupiter and Saturn, now close in the sky and looking beautiful together. On 30 June, Jupiter passes half a degree north of faint Pluto. On 14 July, Jupiter is opposite the sun in the sky. Next day, the giant planet comes closest to the Earth: 619.3 million kilometres, or 34.4 light minutes away. On 20 July, Saturn is opposite the sun in the sky. And next day the ringed planet comes closest to the Earth: 1345.6 million kilometres, or 74.81 light minutes away.

Mars rises around midnight, and shines brightly for the rest of the night. It is brighter than Saturn, though not as bright as Jupiter or the even brighter Venus that rises before the dawn, pulling out further from the sunrise as the month goes on, but staying near Aldebaran, the bright star of Taurus. On 12 July, Venus passes a degree north of the star. On 24 June, Mars enters the constellation Pisces and moves on into a corner of Cetus on 8 July.

On the night of 5/6 July the just past full moon is near Jupiter and Saturn, and then near Mars on 12 July. The old crescent moon passes close to the north of Venus on 17 July, but there is no occultation this month.

As seen from the southern hemisphere, Mercury emerges rapidly from the near side of the sun half way through the lunar month, and there is a great view of it with Venus above. From the northern hemisphere, you may just be able to see Mercury before sunrise low in the ENE, to the right of and below the very thin, old crescent moon on the morning of 19 July.

At full moon on the night 4/5 July, there is a penumbral eclipse of the moon visible from Western Europe, West Africa, the Americas and Antarctica. Maximum eclipse is at 05:30 (04:30 UTC) on 5 July, when there may just be some darkening of the moon’s northern limb. However, this is after moonset in Europe and Africa, so in these places there will be very little to see. At maximum eclipse, there is a 31% eclipse of the sun at the moon’s north pole.

The month ahead: Hazel Moon 2020

21 July - 18 August 2020

Map of night sky at full moon: 3 August, 15:59 UTC
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Hazel Moon 2020

The sky continues to be full of bright planets, with Jupiter and Saturn shining close to each other in the SE, appearing as soon as the sky is dark enough. Indeed, if you know where to look, you may be able to see Jupiter at sunset. The moon is near Jupiter on 1 August, and has passed by Saturn on 2 August.

Mars rises in the late evening, shining brightly and redly for the rest of the night. On 26 July, it moves from Cetus back into Pisces. The moon is near Mars on the night 8/9 August. As seen from SE South America and nearby parts of Antarctica and the Atlantic, the moon passes right in front of Mars. As seen from Buenos Aires, the moon covers Mars from 04:46 to 05:57 local time (07:46 to 08:57 UTC) on 9 August. As seen from São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the sun has risen by the end of the occultation.

Venus is the bright morning star. On 12 August, it reaches 46°W of the sun before turning back towards the dawn, and the far side of the sun. The old crescent moon is nearby on 15 August.

On 22 July, Mercury reaches 20°W of the sun in the eastern morning sky. For the first week of the lunar month, you should be able to see it below Venus in the dawn sky from most parts of the Earth before it vanishes towards the far side of the sun.

Look out for the Perseid meteors around 12 & 13 August, especially just before the moon rises.

William Morris
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