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Hal Kibbey
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Venus and Aldebaran in the Hyades star cluster

Photo by: NASA


June 28, 2006

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Four of the five planets that can be seen with the unaided eye will be visible during July, some of them much more visible than others. The fifth, Mercury, will be out of sight as it passes between Earth and the sun.

If you rise before the sun does this month, you'll see Venus as a majestic "morning star" in the east. The brilliant white planet will be closely paired with the bright orange star Aldebaran in the constellation Taurus the Bull low in the east-northeast at dawn. Venus will rise two hours before the sun on July 1, joining with Aldebaran to form the tips of the V-shaped Hyades star cluster, a spectacular sight in binoculars. The Pleiades star cluster will be directly above them.

Jupiter will be the "evening star" gleaming in the southwest as darkness falls during July, dominating the sky until it sets in the west after midnight. Jupiter will be the brightest object visible after the moon.

Mars is now on the far side of the sun from Earth, so it has faded considerably. But the pale orange planet will have a close encounter with the bright white star Regulus in the constellation Leo the Lion on the evening of July 21. Look fairly low in the west a half hour after sunset to watch the two objects seem to brush past each other. Binoculars will highlight the contrast in colors.

Saturn will be four times brighter than Mars, to the lower right (north) of it in the west-northwest, but you may need binoculars to find the yellow planet in the glow of twilight. Saturn will set about an hour after the sun early in the month, but it may be lost in the sun's glare by the third week.

Viewing information and graphics for the planets are available at

Noctilucent clouds

A beautiful phenomenon of the twilight sky called noctilucent clouds is sometimes visible in the Northern Hemisphere during summer. These wispy clouds form when water vapor condenses onto meteoric dust particles about 50 miles above Earth's surface. Noctilucent clouds are so thin that they are invisible in daylight. They can be seen only when the sun is just below the horizon, either in the northwest after sunset or in the northeast before sunrise, when the background sky is dark enough but there is still some light. Look for delicate bluish-white veils above the place where the sun is below the horizon. They are easy to distinguish from regular clouds, which appear dark against the morning or evening twilight. Numerous photographs of noctilucent clouds can be seen at

Meteor shower

The southern branch of the Delta Aquarid meteor shower will peak before dawn on July 28, with meteors visible for several nights before and after the peak as well. The long, bright streaks will appear to come from a point in the constellation Aquarius in the southern sky during the hours just before morning twilight. In a dark sky there might be as many as 20 meteors per hour at the peak, and moonlight will not interfere.

Moon phases

The moon will be at first quarter on July 3, full on July 10, at third quarter on July 17 and new on July 25.