This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report through July 26, 2017. Here’s what’s happening in the skies of southern California.
The planet Mercury can be spotted starting at 8:45 p.m. Mercury is then visible seven degrees above the western horizon, and to the lower right of the constellation Leo the Lion’s bright star Regulus, by an angular separation that decreases from seven degrees on the 19th to only one degree on the 25th. On the following night, Mercury will be to the lower left of Regulus. Binoculars will be helpful in the quest for spotting Mercury.
The planet Jupiter, in the constellation Virgo the Maiden, is the brightest evening object. It is easy to see in the western sky after sunset, and is to the upper left of Mercury. A telescope will allow you to see Jupiter’s cloud features. Jupiter’s famous Great Red Spot will face telescopes on the west coast at 9:00 p.m. on the 19th, 21st, 24th, and 26th. Jupiter sets in the west at about 11:30 p.m.
Saturn is well placed for early evening viewing in the east-southeast at 9 p.m. It is the brightest thing in that direction and appears starlike and golden in hue. Saturn’s rings are spectacular through nearly any telescope, and they now display nearly the maximum tilt possible, about 27 degrees to our line of sight. Saturn sets in the west-southwest at about 3:15 a.m.
Venus, the brightest planet, rises in the east at about 3:05 a.m., and is still visible in the east at sunrise. On the 20th, Venus appears less than three degrees above the slender crescent moon.
The waning moon is visible before sunrise until the 21st . It is new on the 23rd. The waxing crescent moon moves into the evening sky on the 24th, and then appears to the lower left of Mercury and Regulus. On the following night, the 25th, the moon shifts to the upper right of the planet and star. On the 26th, the moon is located between Mercury and Jupiter.
The International Space Station will outshine Jupiter and Venus as it makes three visible passes high over Los Angeles. On the 22nd, the ISS speeds from the southwest horizon to the northeast horizon between 9:18 and 9:24 p.m., and along the way it will be 64 degrees above the southeast at 9:21 p.m. Eight hours later, on the morning of the 23rd, the ISS is visible from 5:25 a.m. to 5:31 a.m. as it crosses the sky from the west-northwest to the south-southeast. The giant satellite reaches its highest point, 49 degrees above the southwest horizon, at 5:31 a.m. On the following morning, the 24th, the ISS appears above the northwest horizon at 4:32 a.m., reaches its highest, 72 degrees above the northeast horizon at 4:36 a.m., then it reaches the southeast horizon at 4:39 a.m.
Free views of the Sun during the day and of the moon, planets, and other celestial objects at night are available to the public in clear weather through Griffith Observatory’s telescopes from Tuesday through Sunday, before 9:30 p.m. Check our website for the schedule. The next free public star party on the grounds of Griffith Observatory, hosted by the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, the Sidewalk Astronomers, and the Planetary Society, will take place on Saturday, July 29th.
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From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook, and I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.