Venus becomes a brilliant “morning star” this July, for anyone whose eyes are open and focused at dawn’s early light.

Jupiter is the brightest “star’ in our evening sky, and it remains high enough for good magnified viewing. Mars is at its nadir in brightness, and it will be hard to see at all.

However, it teams up with Mercury for one last moment in the limelight. Saturn is passing behind the sun and is out of the picture.

July 1: The full moon this evening is closest to the summer solstice, and it will be the most southerly and have the lowest arc across the sky.

July 4: If you are able to be up before our early sunrises this month, Venus is a sight to behold. You can start your Independence Day celebration by taking in a close conjunction of Venus and Aldebaran, the eye of the Bull. If you look in bright twilight, binoculars may be needed to see Aldebaran just to the lower right of this brightest of the planets. As early as 4 a.m., eyes alone will suffice to see them both, and they will be almost one hand width (with your arm straight out) above the horizon and left of east. (All times are given for the Lewiston-Auburn area.)

July 9 & 10: Mars is fading into the sunset, but Mercury teams up with it these evenings, giving us one last reason to look at it. Mercury will be quite bright, but Mars will have only 1 percent of the brightness it had last summer, when it was all the rage. If you look about 9 p.m., Mercury will be half a hand above the horizon and two hands right of west. Binoculars will be needed to see Mars just to its left on the 9th and below it on the 10th.

July 19: A very slender crescent moon will be just half a hand above Mercury about 9 p.m.

July 21: The bright “star” half a hand below and right of the moon this evening will be Jupiter. This is the last month that Jupiter will be high enough for good telescopic viewing, so take advantage of it if you can.

July 27: As darkness takes over, a somewhat plump moon will be less than half a hand left of Antares, the reddish eye of the Scorpion.

July 28: The moon will sit beside the spout of the Teapot of Sagittarius. Sometime when the moon is not in the picture, binoculars or a telescope will show you some interesting star clusters and clouds of gas above the Teapot’s spout.

July 31: The moon will be full for the second time this month. Many people call this second full moon a blue moon, and it happens only now and then.

July evenings are sometimes hazy, but we can use the nice clear ones to check on the social life of the planets. Seeing the Teapot just beside the venomous tail of the Scorpion can remind us not to spout off when we might get stung.

Roger Ptak is professor emeritus of physics and astronomy at Bowling Green State University in Ohio and author of the popular astronomy book “Sky Stories.” He and his wife now live in Northport. His e-mail address is dptak//fermi.bgsu.edu/~ptak/star/star.html.


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