happy independence day to all folks from the US!! as the sun sets on your BBQs and you get ready for the fireworks to begin, take a moment to glance up in the sky at the natural firestorms glowing in other parts of our galaxy!
the planet venus is the very bright object visible in the west, which will set over the horizon as the sun says its goodbyes. if you follow up and to the left of venus, you'll spot the star regulus, mars, and saturn. this is roughly what the planet-heavy western sky will look like at 9:30 pm tonight from most of the US.
below shows a sky map for july 10, 2010 (from earthsky.org), as venus creeps closer to regulus in the sky. the two will reach a conjunction on july 10th, appearing extremely close in the sky for one night only!
for more info on any of these astronomical objects, i recommend you check out the site lookUP which provides interesting images of astronomical objects at different wavelengths, links to recent astronomy blog posts about them, finder charts, and much more. lookUP represents one of the many useful tools for the astronomically inclined recently developed by stuart at the astronomy blog.
happy hot dogging and planet hunting!