What's coming up in the northern hemisphere's night sky in the week of 25th to 31st July.



Chris Bramley Hello and welcome to Star Diary, the podcast from the makers of BBC Sky at Night magazine. You can subscribe to the print edition of the magazine by visiting skyatnightmagazine.com or to our digital edition by visiting iTunes or Google Play.

Ezzy Pearson Greetings listeners and welcome to Start Diary, a weekly guide to the best thing to see in the Northern Hemisphere's Night Sky. In this episode, we'll be covering the coming week from July 25th to 31st. I'm Ezzy Pearson, the magazine's features editor, and I'm joined on the podcast today by reviews editor Paul Money. Hello, Paul.

Paul Money Hi Ezzy. Another exciting week. A lot happening this week, you know.

Ezzy Oh, I'm really excited to hear about. I'm sure, so are our listeners. So what are your recommendations for the coming week?

Paul Well, sadly, it's a morning job again. The way how it all work , it sometimes works like this. We have weeks where it's all morning, all evening or, you know. So we're beginning in the very early hours of Monday 25th. So, you know, so just after midnight, in fact. Now, we've talked a lot over the last month or so about the planetary parade. It's been ongoing since June. So, you know, we've had quite a parade of planets and we have, and they've spread across the whole sky. So we've got Saturn over in Capricornus and then Jupiter, which is over.. it's a borderline between Cetus and Pisces as well. And then we've also got Uranus, Neptune, Mars as well. So there's a huge range of planets. And so if you look just after midnight, you've got Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune, Mars, Uranus, and then the crescent moon as well, rising in the northeast. That's just after midnight. So you've got to wait until about 2 a.m. for them to really get up. So so the well place to actually observe and there's even an interloper comet, 107P Wilson Harrington as well.

Ezzy Which I think we talked about last week.

Paul Yeah. Yeah. And we've still got, it's still reasonably bright. So it's well worth having a look at it. Now, this parade, I mean, yes, he's going to be there for a while, but one of them is going to start to become a bit awkward. Yeah, there's always one or two while these, you know, sort of thing. I mean, usually me but yeah.

Ezzy You can't have it all good unfortunately, but you've got to one that's challenging.

Paul Well of course, you know, I mean, the good news about this one is that, you know, because of its brightness, it lingers for a while. This is Venus, because Venus is steadily dropping back into the morning, twilight. But it's one of those weird things, as we'll see when we get into August. But in actual fact, he still lingers because of course the nights start to draw in as well. So it's a balancing act between the two. So Venus well let's start off sort of thing on the 25th and 26, what we've got is the moon is between the horns. So when you see that crescent moon rise, I say in the early hours of the 25th, it's actually line between the two horns of Taurus. The bull Taurus is back. The winter sky is on the way back. Oh, I shouldn't be so excited really about the winter sky scene is that we're talking about summer still. Oh well wishing my life away sort of thing. But we astronomers, we love the dark night, don't we? So that's on the 25th. But on the 26th, the moon is to the upper right of Venus. Now Venus is so bright, it's easily visible, even in bright twilight. And technically, if you know the right time of year, you can actually see it in daylight sort of thing. But it has to be at his furthest really from the sun. So we've got the moon then above Venus on the 26th, and then it's actually almost level with Venus on the left hand side of Venus on the 27th. So you've not just got this parade of planets, you've got a Comet, you've actually got Vesta as well. We didn't mention Vesta, that's up too far away from Saturn as well. And then I say, we've got the crescent moon and it's creeping closer towards new. It'll be new on the 28th. So it's new this week, which is great. If you want to observe the summer sky, get out and see the summer sky while the moon's out of the way. But you know, if you like the moon, you to have to wait until next week for it to really get back into the sky. So, you know, it's a really good view in the morning, but when you look at it, the moon and Venus, you do need an uncluttered horizon. They are low, roughly in the northeast. It won't be looking about 4 a.m., but you do need an uncluttered horizon. So you've got buildings, trees or anything like that sort of thing. You know, you do really need to find a place. Probably go up on a hill if you can, or if you're in a in a city and get to the top of the building, you know, then I've done that in the past. You know. I had a holiday many years ago and the hotel and Switzerland were a bit puzzled when the person with me had to translate that I want. I asked if I could go on the roof and they were so looking at me as much. Say he's an Englishman, he's mad and explain. I'm an astronomer and they let me on the roof and the view was gorgeous, I have to say. So, you know, it's well worth it. And sometimes you get a grandstand view of the horizon with the cityscape around you. I've done that from Leeds, my brother in law's got a great flat and that was, we went on his roof I think. Obviously stunning. So you get this grand vista all around.

Ezzy Of course. If you are going out on somebody's roof, we make sure that you have permission to be there. And that it is safe to be there, because not all roofs are

Paul Exactly. Yeah. Oh, yes. We've got to make sure the safety first thing. You know, I mean, I was very I had to be very careful in that hotel, I have to say. But, yeah, the other thing to do is that we know the planets move and often it's very subtle. But this week keep an eye on Mars as well because it's actually gradually creeping closer to the planet Uranus. It won't pass it until next week, so we'll discuss that next week. But it is creeping closer. So you get an idea again of the clockwork motion of the solar system when you see planets and you will need binoculars. I know Uranus is naked eye, just. That's if you got keen eyesight and a very dark side. But if you got binoculars, it is quite easy to spot it. So do have a look out for that as Mars creeps closer to Uranus. So there we are in the evening sky. We get we do have an evening sky section. Good grief. In the evening sky. You want to be looking out low in the West because I mentioned the moon is new on 28th and it usually takes a day or so before it really becomes obvious. But on 30th and 31st took me to a very low down in the west. I love looking for that ethereal little thin crescent, getting that first glimpse of that thin crescent low in the evening sky. It's the 30th and 31st. He's always gorgeous when he's in that evening twilight. And because more people are likely to see it in the evening, it's more convenient, isn't it, to actually observe? But I love seeing that really thin crescent. And again, look out for the earthshine. The faintly glowing other half of the moons or the other parts of the moon just suddenly glowing there. But I find it needs to be a bit darker for that. Slightly so the moon needs to be a bit higher in the sky so that. Our final target for this particular week is another comet.

Ezzy Another one?

Chris Bramley Another one. Yeah. And this is this is one we've been keeping an eye on for a while now. It's Comet C 2017, K2 PANSTARRS And I love it when it passes reasonably close to a bright, naked eye star and in this case, it does so actually looking on the 28th of July. So we actually see it in is Zeta Ophiuchi and it's actually.I don't know how to pronounce Saik, S A I K, I mean I'm almost tempted to say sake but, but it's not Japanese I don't think, but it's a magnitude 2.5, so it's a bright naked, easily visible sort of thing. Ophiuchus is that sort of diffuse, quite large constellation that can actually get a big overlook because it's so big? It stars are scattered so much, but this is towards the bottom end, aiming roughly towards Scorpius as well. Now the star is magnitude 2.5, but the comet is around about seventh magnitude, but it should be visible in binoculars as a fuzzy blob. We all know fuzzy blobs, don't we? Well, I mean, that's the trouble with most deep sky objects in binoculars. They look like fuzzy blobs, and hopefully comet PANSTARRS will look like a fuzzy blob as well. You won't be able to confuse the star and the comet whatsoever. So really look to the upper right of the star on the 28th when the comet is actually closest to Zeta Ophiuchi. It will slowly move away, and he's heading down and he's heading down towards Scorpius, but we'll deal with that a next week. So there we are. So we've got planets, we've got comets, we've got minor planets, with Vesta, we've got the crescent moon in the morning sky and then back into the evening as well. We've got a whole range of things to look out for this week.

Ezzy It definitely does sound fascinating and hopefully our listeners will be able to get out there and see at least some of them. But thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us about them. Paul.

Paul It's a pleasure.

Ezzy If you want to find out even more spectacular sites that will be gracing the night sky throughout the month. Be sure to pick up a copy of BBC Sky at Night Magazine where we have a 16 page pull out Sky Guide with a full overview of everything worth looking up for. Whether you like to look at the moon, the planets, or the deep sky, whether you use binoculars, telescopes, but neither are sky guide has got you covered with the detailed star charts to help you track your way across the night sky. From all of us here at BBC Sky at Night Magazine. Goodbye.


Chris Bramley Thank you for listening to this episode of The Start, our podcast from the makers of BBC Sky at Night Magazine. For more of our podcasts, visit our website at skyatnightmagazine.com Or head to iTunes or Spotify.


Elizabeth Pearson
Ezzy PearsonScience journalist

Ezzy Pearson is the Features Editor of BBC Sky at Night Magazine. Her first book about the history of robotic planetary landers is out now from The History Press.