Consider a planetarium program to help you plan your observations. There are many commercial products available, and a very good program (Cartes du Ciel) is available free at http://www.ap-i.net/skychart/en/start.
The Moon will reach its full phase on July31st (Friday). This is a BLUE MOON, which by the most widely accepted definition is the second full Moon appearing within a calendar month. (The last Blue Moon was August 31, 2012, and the next one will occur on January 31, 2018).)
Trying to capture details on the Moon through a small telescope or binoculars is a great activity. I suggest that you review Moon maps ahead of time and look for interesting objects that will appear that night near the “terminator” (the transition between darkness and light), so you can see the object with the greatest possible contrast. Try photography (see below) or sketching if you don’t have the camera gear!
Monday (July 27):
Look for Arcturus (in Bootes, the herdsman) high in the sky just after dark. Find the three-star “tail” of the Big Dipper and follow its curve away from the dipper and you will be rewarded by finding yellow-gold Arcturus. Remember the phrase: “Arc to Arcturus.” Arcturus, an orange giant) is about 37 light-years away and shines at Magnitude -0.4 (it’s the 4th brightest star in the night sky).
Friday (July 31):
Full Moon at 4:43 a.m. MDT. Tonight is a BLUE MOON (see above).
Mercury (in Cancer): Lost in the glare of the Sun.
Venus (in Leo): Still fairly close to Jupiter – look west at sunset, but it’s getting lower every day!
Mars (in Gemini): Might be visible in the early sunrise. Have a look (binoculars will help) before the Sun gets up in the east.
Jupiter (in Leo): Still close to Venus – look west at sunset, but it’s getting lower every day!
Saturn (in Libra): High in the south as darkness falls. Look for it just above the “head” of Scorpius.
Uranus (in Pisces): Well up in the southeastern sky before dawn.
Neptune (in Aquarius): Well up in the southern sky before dawn.
IRIDIUM FLARES and INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION: Sorry – these are too numerous to list here! If you’re serious, load the ISS DETECTOR app on your smart phone or tablet. Alternatively, refer to Chuck Percival’s column in the Sunday Pueblo Chieftain.
– Dave Furry, President – Southern Colorado Astronomical Society