Our monthly update of the night sky is now available for July. You can download it here or pick up your own paper copy at one of our events.
So what’s so amazing in July? It has to be Mars. The red planet, as it is known, takes under 2 Earth years (686 Earth days) to orbit the Sun and ever so often we catch up and move in between the Sun and Mars. Because of the elliptical orbits of both Earth and Mars, the distance between Earth and Mars at this time varies. This year it is particularly close and on 30th July is the second closest in your lifetime. The actual opposition is a few days earlier on 27th July but that’s elliptical orbits for you.
The close proximity means Mars will be very bright in the sky and much bigger than normal; about 21 arc seconds. This means detail will be easier to see on those perfectly still nights. At the time of writing, a planet wide dust storm was obscuring many of these features and causing poor rover Opportunity to go into safe mode. Watch the storms clear this Summer and cross your fingers for Opportunity.