July 2017 Menu

Astro for July

“Uncle Bob”



Saturn Update

Bailey's Beads effect taken Dec. 4, 2002. Credit: Arne Danielson.


On August 21, our Moon will pass between us and the Sun. Parts of 14 U.S. states will enjoy a total solar eclipse, and all of the continental U.S. and some of our neighbors to the north and south will see at least a partial eclipse. NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Admnistration, provides much useful information, including detailed maps of each state impacted by totality.


Except during totality, it is not safe to look directly at the Sun. It is NOT safe to look at even a small portion of the disk. Even welder’s masks are not recommended filters. NASA provides information on safe viewing products and answers to other FAQs.


More detailed info on safety can be found at


Saturn Update

As we reported last month: “Saturn’s rings are very near their maximum tilt at 26.5 degrees from our vantage. Even a very small telescope should present them plainly.” The good news is that the ringed planet makes very slow progress across our sky. On July 1, you will find it due south, and also at its highest position above the horizon, at around 11 pm. By month’s end it will be in that position by 9 pm.
If your best views are to the west, you have several more months to see Saturn and its rings. The planet sets during evening hours from September through November.

The Sky & Telescope daily calendar for 2017 has some interesting Saturn facts. Keep in mind the vast distance between it and the Earth and also the enormous sizes of Saturn and its rings. Some of the ice and rock particles in the rings are as big as a house, and yet from Saturn’s surface at the equator you couldn’t see the rings without the aid of magnification. The rings move around Saturn at high speeds. Various space missions have found rings around Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune as well.

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