When the sky is clear in the early evening, say at 9:30 p.m., look to the west-southwest for the slowly developing "triple star," composed of the planets Saturn and Mars and the true star Spica. In this photo, Saturn and Spica are the similarly bright objects on the left side with Saturn being above Spica. Mars is to their right and is shining at the same luminosity as both Saturn and Spica. A dimmer star, Porrima, lies to Mars' right.
As the nights progress, Mars moves away from Porrima and towards the space between Saturn and Spica, creating a tighter "triple star."
In the photo, Mars lies to the far right, and Saturn, on the left, sits above Spica. Over the next two weeks, Saturn remains about where it is, while Mars heads through the gap between Saturn and Spica. An apparent "triple star" forms as Mars approaches that gap. Look to the west-southwest after 9:30 p.m. to see this celestial scene play out.
In this shot, Mars is to the far upper left of the glowing moon. (The star to Mars' upper right is Porrima, a moderately bright star in Virgo.) To Mars' upper left lie Saturn and Spica. Saturn is above Spica. The moon will be next to Mars on Tuesday night and to the left of Saturn and Spica on Wednesday night.
Over the next two nights, the crescent moon moves near Mars, Saturn and Spica providing an easy ID of these three similarly bright celestial objects. The moon lies next to Mars on Tuesday night and, on Wednesday night, to the left of Saturn and Spica forming a heavenly triangle. Look to the west around 9:30 a.m.
The end of July sees Mars creeping closer towards the short gap between Saturn and Spica. Finally, on August 14, the Red Planet slide between them, making an unusual apparent triple star.
Early morning risers view a celestial treat over the next week. Since early July Venus and Jupiter have been drifting near the Hyades and Pleiades star clusters. As July advances, they slowly move to the east of these clusters, but over the next few days, Venus, Jupiter and the Pleiades remain in near alignment, creating a very pretty scene at 4:45 a.m.
Venus is the brightest object and Jupiter is the next. Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus, lies to Venus' upper right and it is in the Hyades cluster. (The Hyades resembles a "V" on its side.) The Pleiades is above Jupiter about the same distance Jupiter is above Venus.
Sunday morning, July 15 head outside to see a very pretty sight. The thin crescent moon lies between bright Jupiter and brilliant Venus low in the southeast. Look about 4:45 a.m. before the brightening dawn dulls the scene. If you have a pair of binoculars, scan the area for the many stars of the Hyades star cluster which lies to the right of Venus.
The moon appears almost magical and certainly inspiring. What a great way to start the day!