How far into the universe have astronomers been able to see? The distance record holder is a galaxy named EGS-zs8-1 that is 13.1 billion light years from Earth.

Since the universe is thought to be 13.8 billion years old, this means the galaxy was formed shortly after the Big Bang took place. Focusing on this distant galaxy took the combined efforts of three orbiting and land-based telescopes.

The distance was calculated from the “red-shift” of the light emitted. Since the universe is expanding, the light emitted from objects receding from Earth shifts from high energy to low energy. The degree of shift is used to calculate the distance.

The galaxy is an active star producer churning out new stars about 80 times faster than the Milky Way. It already contains enough suns to make up about 15 percent of the mass of the Milky Way even though it is only about 5 percent of the age of our galaxy. Further studies should help to shed light on the early evolution of the universe right after the Big Bang.

Focus on the planets

Mercury will be visible in the east-northeast a half-hour before dawn. The fast-moving inner planet will slip from view by mid-month.

Venus is brilliant in the west an hour after sunset and cannot be mistaken for its much dimmer neighbor Jupiter with which it makes a close pairing early in the month.

Mars is lost in the sun’s glare all month and won’t return to view until late August.

Jupiter is easy to spot in the west as darkness falls because of its proximity to Venus. Surface features are getting harder to see because of the thicker Earth atmosphere through which you are viewing, but the four major moons should still put on a show.

Saturn is about one-third of the way up on the horizon as darkness falls and is the brightest object in this portion of the sky. The ring system is still favorably tilted to see the outer A-ring and brighter inner B-ring with the dark band of the Cassini division between them.

Blue-green Uranus and blue-gray Neptune are in the south-southeast around dawn where they may be found with binoculars.

July events

1 Sunrise, 4:53 a.m.; sunset, 8:25 p.m. Full moon. The full moon of July is known as the Birch Moon, Thunder Moon or Hay Moon. Check out the very close pairing of Venus and Jupiter in the evening sky.

5 The moon is at perigee, or closest approach to Earth.

6 The Earth is at aphelion, or greatest distance from the sun, today.

8 Moon in last quarter, 4:24 p.m.

12 Aldebaran, the red eye of the Bull, is just to the lower left of the moon at dawn.

15 New moon, 9:24 p.m.

18 The moon, Venus, Jupiter and Regulus all fall within a tight circle on the western horizon an hour after sunset.

21 The moon is at apogee or farthest distance from Earth. The sun enters Cancer on the ecliptic.

23 The sun enters the astrological sign of Leo.

24 Moon in first quarter, 12:04 a.m.

25 Golden Saturn is just to the lower left of the moon as darkness falls.

31 Full moon, 6:43 a.m. The second full moon in a month is called a blue moon. Sunrise, 5:19 a.m.; sunset, 8:03 p.m.

Send astronomical queries to Clair Wood at cgmewood@aol.com or care of the Bangor Daily News, Features Desk, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor, ME 04402.