Five of the sky's brightest and most dazzling lights will make appearances in the western sky on several nights this month in a promising celestial show for skywatchers with clear skies.
Venus, the dazzling evening star, is currently creeping past Regulus, the brightest star of Leo, the lion. At the beginning of July, Venus was well to the lower right of Regulus, but now the planet stands side by side with the bright star.
Being the brightest object in the night sky other than the moon, Venus is impossible to miss. People often mistake it for an airplane or UFO, and calls to local police and sheriff departments are not uncommon when Venus graces the evening sky.
(This graphic shows how to see Venus, Regulus and the slender crescent moon in July.)
Lucky skywatchers can catch Venus and Regulus tonight, Friday July 9, as they swing closest together, separated only by about one degree less than the width of a finger held at arm's length.
The slim crescent moon will dance close to this bright duo on July 14, making an equilateral triangle with the moon at left, Venus on top, and Regulus on the right.
The orange-hued planet Mars and the golden gas giant Saturn will be a little higher to the group's upper left. (Use this graphic to spot Saturn and Mars together with the moon, Venus and Regulus on July 14.)
The display of these five bright cosmic objects provides a good look at the ecliptic the path that the sun traces across the sky.
In ancient times, the ecliptic was thought to hold special significance. In fact, the first major constellations ever drawn were those of the zodiac the 12 constellations that lie along the ecliptic.
Yet, celestial events are not solely confined to July nights. On Sunday, the sun will cast a dark shadow over a slice of the Earth's surface in a total eclipse spectacle.