July is a great month in St. George for viewing the planets. The days are long and the nights are short and most of the planets are visible in the night sky. Earth will be reaching the point in its yearly revolution where it is farthest away from the sun. If you are looking towards the Leo constellation (follow the handle of the Big Dipper), you will see Jupiter, also known as the Red Giant. It will be visible to the naked eye, but if you happen to have a small telescope, or even a good pair of binoculars, you may be lucky enough to view four of its biggest moons.
The most exciting news in the sky this month is Mars! On July 31, it will be closer to Earth than it has been in the last 15 years. Mars will rise in the east at sunset and set in the west at dawn. It should be visible to the naked eye all night long and will look like a giant glimmering orange star.
I hope you grab a blanket, maybe a friend, turn off all of your lights and enjoy the night sky.
—Willow Mae McConochie (McConochie is an avid astronomy buff who watches the night sky from her family’s home in the woods near Otis Cove.)