The Planets for July:
Mercury - tiny but bright (-0.2 magnitude) shines alongside bright Venus in low western twilight skies this mid-month and will be very difficult to view. On the 29th, look for Mercury very close to the bright star REGULUS in Taurus and viewable favorably in less bright skies - in CANCER-TAURUS
Venus - our brightest planet in quite close to tiny Mercury at mid-month in evening bright twilight, setting while the sky is still bright in the west . Note that this brilliantly white planet will rise ever-so-higher throughout the remainder of the summer, making for a beautiful "evening star" late in 2016 - in CANCER
Mars - still at a fairly large angular size (14"), Mars is favorably placed for imaging and viewing throughout the nights; at midmonth, the Red Planet sets shortly after 1 a.m., but for evening star parties and very good early night viewing, Mars is a great target this summer - in LIBRA
Jupiter - dominating the early evening skies, this will be our showcase "star party object" for July; the bright and yellow orb will set nearly due west at MIDNIGHT at midmonth and will be very well placed in high declinations for northern viewers - in LEO-VIRGO
Saturn - appearing as a very brilliant yellow star, Saturn is slightly east of MARS and very high in the sky throughout the night, not setting until shortly after 3 a.m. local time. This is a very favorable time to see the ringed planet high in northern skies, with its rings tilted near maximum toward Earth. - in OPHIUCHUS
Uranus - distant planet Uranus rises about 2 a.m. local time and shines at magnitude 5.9, bright enough to spot in good binoculars if one knows where to look; use a good planetarium sky program or GO TO telescope to locate this distant world; by sunrise will be high in the east and will show a faint, blue disk in large telescopes - in PISCES
Neptune - look for faint Neptune in large telescopes at midmonth very, very close to the bright star Lambda Aquarii (mag. 3.7); it will be quite close to this star all month, thereby making it a bit easier to spot this distant world. Nearly overhead about an hour before dawn. - in AQUARIUS
Pluto - at magnitude 14.1, our most distant planet (yes....it is a planet) is very low in southern skies, setting about 4:30 a.m. local time; only 12 inch and larger telescopes can spot this world visually. - in SAGITTARIUS
JULY METEOR SHOWERS:
Observe when the moon does not interfere and attempt to observe AFTER midnight for most meteors to be seen! For July, there is a scant THREE meteor showers for the entire warm and inviting month. However, as with a months and times during the year, observers should always be aware that new sporadic meteor showers can occur at anytime from seemingly unknown sources and radiants.
Note always observe meteors reclining with your feet in the direction of the meteor radiant. Attempt to observe when the moon is not in the sky (see Daily Calendar below).
July 16 - Omicron Draconids - very high in northern skies. Found in 1971 and few meteors seen since. These are slow-moving meteors; the nearly full moon will dominate the skies throughout the night this year, so the faintest meteors that possibly are associated with this cloud might not be seen this year. This is a circumpolar meteor shower for the northern hemisphere, circling high in northern polar regions and will be up all night. This is possibly a swarm of debris particles from a long-dead comet that has simply "run out" of material or has been perturbed by the gravity of another object (i.e., Jupiter) and no longer passes through the orbit of the Earth.
July 28 - Delta Aquarids (South) - rises about 8 p.m. and overhead about 2 a.m. The moon is last quarter for this meteor shower and thus is a problem this year, so this is a fair year for this shower; normally you should expect perhaps 8-15 per hour; face south and look for meteors overhead and begin your observing about 11 p.m. on the 27th and continue into the dawn of the morning of the 28th.
July 23-30 - Capricornids - From comet Honda-Mrkos-Padjusakova, these are bright yellow meteors with many fireballs! This is a fair year for these meteors to be seen and enjoyed, since the moon will be quarter but diminishing toward the end of the month; thus improving conditions from July 28-31 for the duration of this activity; the radiant for these meteors is very low in SE sky at dark and south of overhead for mid-northern latitudes by midnight; best chance for the best meteors will be after about 1:30 a.m. local time when the dark side of the earth will be turning directly into the path of the meteor stream. Even in moonlight this can be a spectacular shower, so this year - this year, expect the fainter meteors to be seen.!