July 2014 guide to the five visible planets



By mid-July, Jupiter is gone. As darkness falls, Mars and star Spica are closest together for 2014, with Saturn nearby. Venus and Mercury east before dawn.


Mercury visible in morning sky, starting around July 11
Mercury visible in morning sky, starting around July 11

Jupiter has faded into the sunset by mid-July 2014, but Mars and Saturn pop into view as soon as darkness falls throughout July 2014.

Mars is noticeable because it is near the star Spica; they are closest on our sky’s dome for 2014 in the month of July.

Moreover, Mars and Saturn will continue to adorn the evening sky in August and September. As darkness falls on these July evenings, look for ruddy Mars and blue-white Spica in the southwestern sky, and for golden Saturn in the south to southwest. It’s easy to distinguish ruddy Mars from golden Saturn by color.

On key dates, let the moon help guide you to the evening planets. Jupiter sits low beneath the moon and Regulus after sunset on July 1. The moon swings close to Mars on July 5, and Saturn on July 7.

Venus, the sky’s brightest planet is prominent in the eastern dawn sky throughout July 2014.

In fact, dazzling Venus will remain the most brilliant starlike object in the morning sky until late October of this year, at which time it will shift over into the evening sky. The lovely waning crescent moon pairs up with Venus on the mornings around July 24. Watch for them.

Mercury, the innermost planet, becomes visible in the morning sky, starting around July 11. Let the moon and Venus help you find Mercury before sunrise on July 24 and July 25.