Enjoy the Planet Parade on the next clear night!
An amazing array of the five bright planets of the solar system, seen from Earth, can keep you busy, and I dare say it beats everything on TV, on the computer or on the phone.
In addition, the crescent moon flies past the brilliant planet Venus on Sunday evening, July 15th. The mating will be a spectacular sight when the sky is clear and no telescope is needed.
Start your solar system tour about 45 minutes after sunset, west to the planet Mercury. The movie Crescent Moon will be just over Saturday night of 14.
Venus is higher and left. At about 1
The farther west you are in the United States, the closer the moon appears to Venus.
Binoculars will add to the beauty of the scene; You will more easily see the faint earth glow that fills the rest of the moon (reflected light from the earth). The effect gives a three-dimensional impression of the spherical moon, which is placed near the Venus and any background stars.
Find the bright star Regulus (Venus is much brighter) on the bottom left of Venus.
Over in the later part of the evening, the wonderful white planet Jupiter begins. As the sky darkens, you will see Antares below, the bright red star. Jupiter is an amazing sight even in a small telescope with its squat slice and its four larger moons.
At dusk, the planet Saturn rises to the southeast, but is better seen as the night progresses. A small telescope easily shows its broad ring system, which is tilted like an ellipse, with the ball of the planet lying inside. Do you see a faint "star" nearby, with a telescope? That's probably Saturn's biggest moon, Titan.
Next comes the wonderful red planet Mars, which rises in the late twilight. In the middle of July, Mars is highest in the south about two hours before sunrise.
On July 31, Mars will be closest to Earth since 2004. A small telescope may suggest dark areas on the red-ocher surface, but there is currently a planet-wide dust storm that makes observation a challenge!
Much weaker, but within reach of binoculars are the planets Uranus and Neptune and the asteroid Vesta. In a dark, rural sky, you can catch Uranus and Vesta with your naked eyes, if you know exactly where to find them.
For more information, see the Sky & Telescope and Astronomy magazines and other sources.  The Moon reaches the first quarter on July 19th.
Keep moving up!
– Peter Becker is Managing Editor at The News Eagle of Hawley, PA. Notes are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please indicate in which newspaper or website you read this column.