Explore the wonders of our universe this July

01 July 2019 | Tourism

Our Namibian winter is in full swing and with it comes plenty of icy temperatures - but more importantly, also crystal-clear night skies. This circumstance is particularly favourable for observing the wonders of our universe. The month of July presents quite a few highlights to be spotted in the skies above.

For the amateur astronomer the most notable highlight will present itself during full moon on 16 July. The partial lunar eclipse is visible from the entire African continent and will commence in the evening at 20:42 and end at 2:19 in the morning of 17 July. From all over southern Africa the moon is set to be well-placed for the duration of the eclipse.

This will be the second eclipse for the month. The first total solar eclipse, which coincided with the New Moon on July 2 was sadly only visible in most parts of the southern Pacific Ocean and western parts of South America - the moon completely blocked out the Sun’s beautiful outer atmosphere known as the corona.

For the more advanced astronomer 9 July will present quite an interesting highlight. The ringed planet Saturn will be at opposition. This means that the planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. It will be brighter than at any other time of the year and this is therefore the best time to view and photograph Saturn and its moons. A medium-sized telescope is required to see its beautiful rings and a more powerful telescope will reveal some of the planet’s larger moons.

Three meteor showers will grace our evening skies during July, two of which can be observed with slight interference by the moon. The July Phoenicids are expected to peak on 13 July, but observing this meteor shower will be difficult on account of the bright moon at the time. More interesting will be the Piscis Australids and Southern Delta Aquariids - these two meteor showers will peak on 28 and 29 July respectively. Avid viewers can expect to up to 25 shooting stars per hour.

A great deal of the information contained in this small piece is entailed in the handbook “Sky Guide Africa South” which is published annually by the Astronomical Society of Southern Africa. This publication is a must-have for professional as well as hobby-astronomers.

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