August Skies

Evening Planets:

                                Jupiter and Saturn are up in the SE in the evening Dusk twilight. The Planet Saturn will follow the Planet Jupiter across the Southern sky. Both planets never get up that high in the Southern sky. Both planets dim a bit as the month progresses. Both planets stay somewhat near each other for the whole month.

                Mars rises in the East about 3 hours after Sunset. Thus, the planet has risen before Midnight and is now an evening planet. Mars has a dramatic rise in brightness during the month. This is setting up Mars for a fine evening showing next month. 

Morning Planets:

                Venus rises in the East about 3 am during the entire month of August. The planet is now moving into its highest position for this morning showing. On 12 Aug; Venus will reach its greatest separation from the Sun for this morning showing. The planet will hold this high attitude throughout the rest of the month of August. The planet does have a slight decrease in brightness as the month progress. Due to Venus high position and the Planet Mercury bad position in the sky; Venus is essentially the only morning planet.

                Mercury puts on a really poor showing very low in the Eastern Dawn sky for the first few days of August. Mercury may be glimpsed with difficulty during the first week of August. Each morning the planet is rising later and is getting closer to the bright glow of Sunrise. After 7 August; the planet moves into the bright glow of sunrise and is lost from view. Due to Mercury’s short, bad showing; Venus basically rules the morning sky herself.

1 Aug Moon below Jupiter, Evening

2 Aug Moon is to the far left of Saturn, Evening

9 Aug Moon just barely below Mars, Dawn

11-12 Aug Perseids Meteor Shower

15 Aug Thin Lunar Crescent upper left of Venus, Dawn

21 Aug Crescent Moon next to star Gamma Virginis, Dusk

28 Aug Waxing Gibbous Moon below Jupiter, Evening

29 Aug Waxing Gibbous Moon lower left of Saturn, Evening

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE):

This bright comet that once graced our skies is moving away from the Earth and the Sun. As a comet gets farther away from the Sun and Earth; the dimmer and smaller the comet gets. C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is now getting dimmer and smaller in the NW evening sky. This means that the comet will be difficult to see at all. Unfortunately, the Moon light will be strongly interfering with observations of the comet. Full Moon is on 3 August. By the time the Moon rises late enough to give some us some dark, Moon free evening skies (around 7 August); the comet is predicted to fade from the unaided eye view. At that time, the comet will only be visible in binoculars or telescopes.

Perseids Meteor Shower:

                The rather well known Perseids Meteor Shower or “The August Meteors” will happen on the night of 11-12 August. This year, this meteor shower favors the evening viewing for two reasons: The first reason is that the evening skies are moon free. After Midnight, the Last Quarter Moon will rise and interfere somewhat with viewing the meteors in the Pre- Dawn Skies. The second reason is the shower is predicted to peak on the evening of the 11th August at 9 pm. About 25 fast meteors per hour are predicted during the evening hours. While about 20 meteors per hour are predicted in the Last Quarter Moon lighted morning skies. This showing of the Perseids Meteor Shower is much better than last year display which was ruined by a Full Moon. So, enjoy this meteor shower because most of the upcoming meteor showers for 2020 will be spoiled by the Moon.

Gary T. Nowak

Vermont Astronomical Society