Sky Watch

Jupiter Is Easy to Spot Through July

By Blaine P. Friedlander Jr.
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, June 25, 2006; Page C02

Prepare for star-spangled July evenings, as the heavens offer proof through the night that Jupiter's still there.

For that evidence, scan the sky about 10 p.m. early in the month to find Jupiter high in the south-southwest. By mid-month, this gaseous planet will have moved deeper into the southwest, where it can be found between the constellations Virgo and Libra.

Despite the light-polluted skies over Washington, Jupiter is a negative second magnitude object, making it very visible. At July's end, it is easily seen in the southwestern sky after dark.

Look for Saturn now. It will be gone in a few weeks, as it is in the west-northwest -- moving lower on the horizon each night and providing a zero magnitude (very bright) view. Mars is in the same west-northwest vicinity as Saturn, but it is higher. Later in July, Mars (first magnitude, bright) can be found in the forearms of Leo the Lion.

Atlantic Coast beachcombers get a morning treat: Venus. Before sunrise, luminescent Venus can be spotted in the east-northeast, about 20 degrees above the horizon.

Beyond the planets, sky gazers can find the Summer Triangle. The sky is best viewed under dark conditions, but you can see the Summer Triangle -- the stars Vega, Altair and Deneb -- rising in the east after sunset. They are among the brightest stars we can see from here.

Down-to-Earth Events

July 5 -- Elizabeth Warner of the University of Maryland's Observatory explains how to spot and photograph satellites at the observatory's open house in College Park. 9 p.m. Information: 301-405-6555; http://www.astro.umd.edu/openhouse .

July 6 -- Astronomer Heidi B. Hammel discusses "Planets Around Other Stars," at the Virginia Air and Space Center, Hampton, Va., at 7:30 p.m. Information: 757-727-0900; http://www.vasc.org .

July 20 -- Astronomer Anita Krishnamurthi discusses "Beyond Einstein: From the Big Bang to Black Holes," at the observatory's open house in College Park. 9 p.m. Information: 301-405-6555; http://www.astro.umd.edu/openhouse .

July 22 -- Join Sean O'Brien of the National Air and Space Museum for a Star Party at Sky Meadows State Park, near Paris, Va., 8:30 to 11 p.m. Parking fee $4. Information, 540-592-3556; http://www.dcr.state.va.us/parks/skymeado.htm .

July 22 -- The National Park Service and National Capital Astronomers host "Exploring the Sky" at Rock Creek Park, in the field south of Military and Glover roads NW. 9 p.m. Information: 202-895-6070; http://www.capitalastronomers.org .

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