Two evening planets are easy to see and are getting closer. The bright red planet Mars and the ringed planet Saturn are going to join together in the zodiacal constellation Libra. This is the top astronomical event for July and August, so far. Call it a race.
While the two planets will be closest together in late August, the show has already started. In the nights ahead, anyone can look up and note that Mars is “inching” closer to Saturn.
Mars is an easy planet to spot high in the southwestern sky shortly after sunset. The planet is the brightest red celestial object in that part of the evening sky. Mars is in the zodiacal constellation Virgo and not far from the bright blueish star Spica.
As the Earth moves, so does Mars. But Mars is slower. It takes the Earth one year to complete a pass around all 12 zodiac constellations. Mars takes about two years.
Mars is moving eastward through the zodiac, and next month it passes by Saturn. Saturn is so far away, its movement among the planets and along the zodiac is considerably slower. Roughly speaking, it takes Saturn two years to move through one constellation in the Zodiac, or about 29 years to complete one orbit around the Sun.
The ringed planet Saturn is not too far to the southeast of Mars. Saturn resides almost firmly planted in the constellation Libra.
Earth is in first place in this speed race, as long as you don’t mention Venus or Mercury.
|Fri., July 11||5:16||8:16|
|Sat., July 12||5:17||8:16|
|Sun., July 13||5:18||8:15|
|Mon., July 14||5:18||8:15|
|Tues., July 15||5:19||8:14|
|Wed., July 16||5:20||8:14|
|Thurs., July 17||5:21||8:13|
|Fri., July 18||5:22||8:12|
|Day||Max (Fº)||Min (Fº)||Inches|