Mars may be seen very low in the West during the 1st week of August. The planet will be extremely difficult to see. Around the 8th of August, the planet moves into the bright glow of Sunset and is lost from view.
Venus is visible low in the West during early evening hours. The planet continues to lose altitude as the month progresses. Thus, Venus is in a poorly placed position for observations. The planet sets about 1 hour after Sunset.
Mercury makes a really poor showing in the West during the last 2 weeks of the month. The planet is very low on the horizon and stuck in the bright glow of Dusk twilight. The planet will be extremely difficult to see. This is Mercury’s worst evening showing of the year.
Saturn doesn’t have the problems that Venus and Mars has. On 2 August, Saturn will be closest to the Earth for the year. The planet will rise in the SE during Dusk twilight. This month, Saturn is visible all night long. The planet is also at its brightest for this year.
Jupiter rises about 1 hour after Saturn in the SE. On 20 August, Jupiter will be closest to the Earth for the year. This planet is at its brightest for the year. This month, Jupiter will be visible all night long.
Technically there are no bright morning planets. Both Saturn and Jupiter can be seen in the SW as Dawn breaks.
2 Aug Waning Crescent Moon near star clusters Pleiades (M45) and Hyades (C41), Dawn
10 Aug Crescent Moon right of Venus, Dusk
11-12 Aug Perseids Meteor Shower
16 Aug Moon above and left of Bright Star Antares, Evening
20 Aug Moon below Saturn, Evening
21 Aug Moon below Jupiter, Evening
30 Aug Last Quarter Moon above bright star Regulus, Dawn
Perseids Meteor Shower:
This meteor shower will be one of the only 2 meteor showers that won’t be spoiled by the Moon for the rest of this year. On the night of 11 -12 August, the Perseids Meteor Shower will happen. The 3-day old Crescent Moon should set around 10 pm; leaving the rest of the night Moon free. Some meteors will be visible after Moonset in the evening sky. About 30 meteors per hour are predicted in the evening sky. The meteor shower peaks in broad daylight on the 12th so probably the Pre – Dawn hours on the morning of the 12th may be the best time to observe them. About 45 meteors per hour are predicted in the Pre- Dawn skies. If the night of the 11 – 12 August is cloudy; a few Perseids meteors can be seen a day before or a day after the main event. This meteor shower is favorable for our viewing area.
Saturn and Jupiter Evening Showing:
Finally, we have 2 bright planets to grace the late summer and autumn evening skies, Saturn and Jupiter.
Saturn is now in the Constellation of Capricornus. Although the planet is somewhat low in the sky, the observing window for Saturn is August to November. A good telescope is needed to see Saturn’s famous ring system. Due to its rings system, Saturn has a nickname of “The Jewel of the Night Sky”. Other features which can be seen in a telescope is some dull cloud belts and a few of Saturn’s brighter moons.
Jupiter is somewhat better off being positioned a bit higher in the sky than Saturn. Jupiter observing window is August to December. Jupiter has a lot to offer when you view it through a good telescope. The planet has an active cloud belt system which changes color and features nightly. Jupiter has 4 bright moons which also change position nightly. Due to its nightly changes in its belts and shifting moons positions; Jupiter has the nickname of “The Amateurs Planet”. Both planets are available for planet watchers of all ages to enjoy the evening views especially through a telescope.
Gary T. Nowak
Vermont Astronomical Society