August 2015

To see a video of this information, go to my YouTube Channel

 

August turns out to be a much less exciting month than the previous couple, but it brings us the best meteor shower of the year and good views of Saturn along with short, but very warm nights.

 

PLANETS...well, the ones visible with your naked eye

Planets you can see around Sunset – Saturn (S),

Planets you can see throughout the night – None

Planets you can see in the Morning – Mars (E), Venus (E – end of month)

 

Mercury – Not really worth looking for this month.

Venus Technically visible starting the 22nd, but difficult to see.  It gets higher in the sky as the month goes on, so keep looking in the morning before sunrise toward the east.   

Mars – Visible in the morning in the east starting around the second week of August.  It’ll be hard to find but it’ll get higher in the sky each morning.  Just look for the reddish star in the east in the mornings before sunrise.

Jupiter – Technically visible the first couple days of the month, but very hard to see.  Make sure you have a clear horizon and look west after sunset.  It’ll be the brightest point of light in that direction and only about 5˚ above the horizon. 

SATURN – Saturn is already in the SSW after sunset and moves across the sky to the West and sets by about midnight. It’ll be the bright point of light to the right of the red, but dimmer, star Antares (which sometimes looks like it’s changing color, due to being low on the horizon and its light having to go through much more atmosphere and turbulence). It’s a great time to check out Saturn’s rings.  Close to the Moon on the 22nd. 


EVENTS...

Last Quarter Moon – 6th (Visible from midnight into the morning)

12th - 13th Perseid Meteor Shower – This is a great year for the Perseids, given that the waning crescent Moon doesn’t rise pretty much until the Sun does.  It looks like that in dark skies there will be about 60 meteors per hour. Remember, you’re seeing the bits of dust left over from Comet Swift-Tuttle burning up as they crash into the atmosphere at 37 miles per second.

Some advice for watching:

    Find a dark location and lie down in a reclining chair or swimming pool floaty

    Look toward Perseus (In the NNE around 9pm, rises throughout the night until sunrise where it will be almost directly above.)  That is where the radiant is - where the meteors will appear to be coming from

    The strategy to observe this one is to start watching in the evening and continue until daylight.  The shower is usually technically active from mid July to late August, so you may see some Perseids in the days leading up to and after the peak as well. 

Check the weather to see if the skies will be clear (weather.com has a good map here)

Adapt your eyes to the dark by staying away from light sources or using a red light if you need to look at a star chart or not trip over something. 

If you’re feeling extra nerdy, do a scientific meteor count.  More info at S&T and IMO

Or find out if your local astronomy club or museum is holding a viewing party. 

New Moon – 14th (darkest skies)

First Quarter Moon – 22nd (Visible until midnight)

22ndClose Encounter – Moon, Saturn – Get out after sunset and look SW for a First Quarter Moon with Saturn 4˚ below and to the right. By 11:30pm, they’ll be in the West setting.

Full Moon – 29th (Visible all night)           

 

CONSTELLATIONS... (see sky map link at the bottom for a Star Map for this month – or ask Mr. Webb)    Look straight up and you'll see...

Just after Sunset (around 8:30pm) – Hercules.  Hercules has an Extra Challenge! Look for M13, the Hercules Cluster in between two of Hercules’ “keystone” stars.  It known as the best globular cluster in the northern skies.  It will be a fuzzy spot in binoculars and will be even cooler through a telescope

Extra Challenge! Use binoculars (or even a telescope) and a star chart to scan through the southern constellation of Sagittarius.  There are at least 7 easily visible clusters and nebulas up and to the right of the “teapot” of Sagittarius.

Midnight – Lyra, Cygnus, Aquila (a little to the south) – These are the Summer constellations, and since they are visible right above us around midnight (and to the east after sunset), it’s now summer!  More details below in the “General Constellation Finding Tips” 

Early Morning – Pegasus, Andromeda Extra Challenge!  Using your naked eye (dark-adapted and in a dark area) or binoculars under normal conditions and a star chart, try finding our neighboring Andromeda Galaxy.  It’ll be a faint, but bigger, fuzzy in the constellation Andromeda

Summer Constellations: Lyra, Cygnus, Aquila, Delphinus

Look to the east after sunset or straight up around midnight and you’ll be able to see Lyra (the Harp), Cygnus (the Swan), Aquila (the Eagle), (and Delphinus the Dolphin.)  These three constellations have the three brightest stars of the summer constellations (Vega, Deneb, Altair – respectively.)  Those bright stars create the summer triangle.  Off to the east of this is the small but beautiful constellation of Delphinus. 

Spring Constellations Bootes, Virgo, Leo, Corona Borealis, Hercules. 

First find the Big Dipper in the North (a North Circumpolar Asterism that never sets) and look at the handle.  Starting at the star closest to the “cup” part, follow the rest of the stars in the handle and follow the arc to Arcturus.  Arcturus is the brightest star in Bootes the Shepherd.  Some say he looks more like a kite, others say more like an ice cream cone. 

Then, following the same “arc”, speed on to Spica.  Spica is the brightest star in Virgo.  Virgo’s a dimmer constellation, so you’ll be rewarded when you find her. 

To the left of Bootes is Corona Borealis.  This is a small collection of stars that make a crown, cup, or U shape in the sky. 

To the left of Corona Borealis is the great constellation of Hercules.  Hercules is the Hero of the sky and has a central “keystone” asterism, in which lies M13, the Hercules Cluster. 

Lastly, Leo is a constellation consisting of a backward question mark (or sickle) and a right triangle to the left.  Use the two Big Dipper “cup” stars that are in the middle of the Big Dipper and follow the line they make to the bright star Regulus, the brightest star in Leo.

Use a sky map from www.skymaps.com to help you out.



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