by William J. Bechaver
Fresh off the total solar eclipse earlier this month, this week, on 16 July, the Moon makes another grand appearance, as it is involved in a partial lunar eclipse.
Lunar eclipses are more widely seen than are solar eclipses, but this one manages to evade us also, being seen, at least in part, by the entire globe, except for people in North America and northeastern Asia.
But fret not. The Moon will have something to offer us, also. With Saturn nearly to opposition, the almost full Moon will encounter the ringed planet in our night sky.
Being at opposition means that Saturn is as close as it will be to Earth this year. It is opposite the Sun in the sky, since we are both on the same side of the solar system. But Saturn is so distant, even at its closest, it is an amazing 840 million miles distant. So distant and dim, not nearly as bright as Jupiter, it will ease to discern by the proximity to the Moon.
On the evening of Monday 15 July, the Moon will rise in the east, just after sunset, accompanied by beautiful and faint Saturn to the left. The two will remain in a close pairing all night long, with the gap closing to less than 0.2° at one o’clock in the morning.
So go out on Monday night or Tuesday morning to see the close conjunction of Saturn and the Moon, culminating when Saturn is just above the Moon just after midnight.
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• · William J. Bechaver is the director of SPACE • Spanish Peaks Amateur Cosmos Enthusiasts, the premier Astronomical Society for Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico.