Astronomy

August Skies

Evening Planets:
Venus is the 1st planet visible in the evening sky at Dusk. The planet is in the WSW sky at Dusk. Each evening, Venus is getting a bit lower in the sky. However as the month progresses, the planet has a nice increase in brightness. The planet is now setting about 1.5 hours after Sunset. Venus is slowly moving toward the bright star Spica. At the end of the month, the planet will be close to the star Spica. After that event, Venus will only remain in the evening sky for another month.
Jupiter is in the SW at Dusk. Jupiter has a decrease in brightness as the month progresses. Jupiter like Venus is losing some altitude each evening. Jupiter now sets before Midnight.
Saturn is low in the South as evening darkness falls. The planet is going through the same situation as Jupiter. As the month progresses, Saturn is losing a bit of brightness and altitude.
Mars rises in the SE as evening darkness falls. The planet was closest to Earth in 15 years on 31 July. For the 1st week of August, Mars is bigger and brighter than it has been since 2003. For the month of August, Mars will dominate the Southern sky. By the 2nd week of August, the planet will slowly dim down a tad. Yet despite this slight dimming, August is Mars best showing in the evening sky in 15 years. It’s unfortunate for telescopic observers of Mars that the planet extremely low position in the Southern sky means it will be greatly affected by atmospheric conditions.

Morning Planet:
Mercury finally breaks the void of bright planets in the morning sky. By 20th of August, the planet should be visible very low in the East after Dawn breaks. On 26 August the planet will be at its highest position in the sky for this showing. The planet will then rise in the East just as Dawn breaks.

6 Aug Waning Crescent Moon near star cluster Hyades (C41), Dawn
12- 13 Aug Perseids Meteor Shower
14 Aug Crescent Moon above Venus, Dusk
20 Aug Waxing Gibbous Moon right of Saturn, Dusk
22 Aug Moon above Mars, Evening
31 Aug Venus below bright star Spica, Dusk

Perseids Meteor Shower:
At last, our viewing area gets a very favorable major meteor shower that will not have any lunar interference. On the night of 12 – 13 August, the Perseids Meteor Shower will occur. The very thin Crescent Moon will set early in the Dusk Twilight and will not interfere at all. The meteor shower is predicted to peak at 9:30 pm EST on the evening of the 12 August. At that time about 40 meteors per hour are predicted. Historically, higher numbers of meteors usually appear in the Pre- Dawn hours of the mornings of the 12 and 13 of August. Perhaps 50 meteors per hour might be seen in those Pre – Dawn hours. This year, Perseids Meteor Shower should have a strong showing before and after the peak. About 20 meteors per hour may be seen 2 days before and 2 days after the peak. The Perseids Meteor Shower is known for swift meteors that occasionally produce a bright yellow colored meteor that could leave a smoke trail behind. The Perseids are very favorable for our viewing area. You may want to spend some time under a dark sky looking for these famous meteors.

Written by
Gary T. Nowak
Vermont Astronomical Society