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Mercury

Mercury remains a morning object for observers in the tropics and Southern Hemisphere for about the first 10 days of July. The nearest planet to the Sun may be spotted about 45 minutes before sunrise in the twilight sky low down above the east-northeastern horizon; brightening from magnitude -0.1 to -0.9 during this time period. Mercury is then unobservable for the remainder of the month as it moves closer ever in the sky to the Sun. The planet reaches superior conjunction on July 23rd.

From northern temperate latitudes Mercury is unobservable during July.

The diagram below shows the June / July morning apparition of Mercury from a latitude of 35S (approx. equal to Sydney, Cape Town and Santiago). Positions of the planet are displayed 45 minutes before sunrise.

June / July morning apparition of Mercury from a latitude of 35S

Venus

Venus continues its run as brilliant evening star this month although from mid-northern temperate locations the observation period shortens noticeably and from about the middle of the month the brightest planet will be lost to the sunset. From more southerly latitudes Venus remains visible throughout July.

On July 10th, Venus attains its greatest brilliance when it peaks at magnitude -4.7. Before this on July 1st it passes only 0.4 degrees south of Jupiter (mag. -1.8) with Venus 15 times the brighter of the pair. Another conjunction occurs on July 19th when the waxing crescent Moon passes 0.4 degrees south of Venus with an occultation visible from northeastern Australia and the French Polynesia (1:07 UT).

On July 23rd, Venus reaches a stationary point in Leo, afterwards retrograde motion commencing. It then draws back towards the Sun with the planet once again passing south of Jupiter on July 31st although this time the separation is more than 6 degrees. Of course the events described during the second half of July are only visible from more southerly climes.

During the month the Venus phase decreases from 33% to a very slim 8% crescent.

Earth

Earth is at aphelion - furthest from the Sun - on July 6th at a distance of 1.017 AU (152 million kilometers or 94.5 million miles).

Mars

Mars reached solar conjunction on June 14th. The Red planet is currently located on the far side of the Sun and remains unsuitable placed for observation throughout July.

Jupiter

Jupiter, mag. -1.8, continues to be visible as an early evening object during July although observers at northern temperate latitudes are likely to lose the planet to the bright long evening twilight during the third week of the month. The largest planet of the Solar System can be seen low down towards the western horizon as soon as it dark enough.

Now moving direct in Leo, Jupiter's long evening period of visibility is almost over as it heads towards next month's solar conjunction. As previously mentioned, much more brilliant Venus will pass less than half a degree south of Jupiter on July 1st. For those located at tropical and southern latitudes another Venus - Jupiter conjunction occurs on July 31st. On this occasion Venus passes 6 degrees south of Jupiter.

The thin waxing crescent Moon passes 4 degrees south of Jupiter on July 18th.

Saturn

Only two months passed opposition, Saturn remains an evening object during July. The beautiful planet famous for it's wonderful ring system continues to move slowly retrograde amongst the faint stars of Libra. It appears to the naked eye as off-white or creamy "star" located 10 degrees northwest of orange/red first magnitude red giant Antares (α Sco mag. +1.0).

Saturn imaged by the Cassini space probe (NASA)

Saturn is visible as soon as it's dark enough towards the south-southeast from northern temperate latitudes or towards the northeast from south latitudes. It sets just after midnight at months end from northern latitudes although two hours later for those further south.

The planet fades slightly from magnitude +0.2 to +0.4 with its apparent diameter shrinking from 18.1 to 17.3 arc seconds as the month progress.

On July 26th, the waxing crescent Moon passes 2 degrees north of Saturn.

Saturn during July 2015

Saturn during July 2015 - pdf format

Uranus

Uranus is now well placed for observation amongst the stars of Pisces. At magnitude +5.8 Uranus is actually visible to the naked eye, albeit faintly. To achieve this goal a dark moonless site is required along with good seeing conditions and a good star chart to pinpoint the exact location.

At the start of July from northern temperate locations, Uranus rises 4 hours before sunrise and by months end is visible from about midnight. The visibility period from locations further south is even better with Uranus visible in the evening sky by months end.

On July 9th the last quarter Moon passes 0.8 degrees south of Uranus with an occultation visible from Western Australia and the Southern Indian Ocean at 2:47 UT. Two weeks later on July 26th, Uranus reaches its first stationary point signaling the beginning of this year's opposition period. The planet then commences retrograde motion.

Uranus during July 2015

Uranus during July 2015 - pdf format

Neptune

Neptune (mag. +7.8) is moving retrograde in Aquarius as it heads towards opposition on September 1st. The eighth and most distant planet from the Sun is positioned about 30 degrees southwest of the Great Square of Pegasus and a few degrees southwest of star lambda (λ) Aqr (mag. +3.7). It now rises before midnight from northern temperate latitudes and up to a couple of hours earlier from locations further south.

Although observers may be able to spot Uranus with the naked eye they have no chance do the same with Neptune, it's far too faint. However, the planet is relatively easy to spot binoculars.

On July 6th, the waning gibbous Moon passes 3 degrees north of Neptune.

Neptune during July 2015

Neptune during July 2015 - pdf format

Solar System Data Table July 2015

 DateRight AscensionDeclinationApparent MagnitudeApparent SizeIllum. (%)Distance from Earth (AU)Constellation
Sun5th July 201506h 54m 14.1s22d 51m 08.0s-26.731.5'1001.017Gemini
Sun15th July 201507h 35m 07.1s21d 38m 18.9s-26.731.5'1001.017Gemini
Sun25th July 201508h 15m 11.8s19d 48m 41.6s-26.731.5'1001.016Cancer
Mercury5th July 201505h 31m 37.1s21d 48m 23.0s-0.506.4"631.052Taurus
Mercury15th July 201506h 51m 26.6s23d 26m 21.1s-1.405.4"911.250Gemini
Mercury25th July 201508h 22m 32.9s21d 07m 53.9s-2.105.0"1001.340Cancer
Venus5th July 201509h 44m 20.1s13d 37m 45.1s-4.734.3"310.486Leo
Venus15th July 201510h 00m 48.9s10d 27m 27.1s-4.740.2"220.415Leo
Venus25th July 201510h 05m 17.9s07d 52m 07.2s-4.647.2"130.354Leo
Mars5th July 201506h 29m 45.3s24d 02m 29.0s+1.603.6"1002.586Gemini
Mars15th July 201506h 58m 45.4s23d 36m 20.6s+1.603.6"1002.587Gemini
Mars25th July 201507h 27m 14.6s22d 51m 09.1s+1.703.6"1002.582Gemini
Jupiter5th July 201509h 39m 01.0s14d 57m 13.9s-1.832.2"1006.118Leo
Jupiter15th July 201509h 46m 37.7s14d 18m 38.0s-1.831.7"1006.212Leo
Jupiter25th July 201509h 54m 32.0s13d 37m 34.9s-1.731.4"1006.287Leo
Saturn5th July 201515h 47m 44.4s-17d 49m 44.2s+0.218.0"1009.227Libra
Saturn15th July 201515h 46m 14.0s-17d 47m 10.2s+0.317.8"1009.351Libra
Saturn25th July 201515h 45m 20.3s-17d 46m 41.5s+0.317.5"1009.493Libra
Uranus5th July 201501h 15m 12.9s07d 15m 42.9s+5.803.5"10020.101Pisces
Uranus15th July 201501h 15m 42.8s07d 18m 26.3s+5.803.5"10019.933Pisces
Uranus25th July 201501h 15m 54.7s07d 19m 20.0s+5.803.6"10019.766Pisces
Neptune5th July 201522h 45m 19.8s-08d 45m 21.8s+7.902.3"10029.398Aquarius
Neptune15th July 201522h 44m 48.4s-08d 48m 51.3s+7.802.3"10029.265Aquarius
Neptune25th July 201522h 44m 07.5s-08d 53m 16.8s+7.802.3"10029.152Aquarius