The night sky offers a show unlike anything else. In this monthly series, we will explore some of the top viewing experiences for backyard astronomers.
Here are some highlights from NASA’s July Skywatching report, as to what you can look forward to observing in the August sky!
Aug. 2 – Full Saturn
Look up to the early morning sky to witness Saturn at opposition. This is when Saturn appears opposite the Sun as observed from the Earth. It will be when the planet is closest and brightest to ours for the year, and is more commonly known as a “full Saturn.”
Look for Saturn’s rings, which you should be able to see with a telescope if the sky is clear, along with Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.
Aug. 3 – Aldebaran makes an appearance
Gaze up at the morning sky and you might see the bright star Aldebaran, appearing slightly to the right of the waning crescent Moon.
Aug. 6 – Pollux appears
Look up at the morning sky to witness the bright star Pollux, which will be visible to the lower left of the Moon.
Aug. 10 – Venus in the evening sky
This evening, gaze up to the night sky and see Venus as it appears to the left of the Moon in the west. Look roughly 5 degrees above the horizon to see them as evening twilight ends. Venus will set first at 8:42 p.m. CT.
Aug. 12 – Peak of the annual Perseid meteor shower
This month, look up to the night sky to witness the Perseids, which are active from mid-July and peak mid-August. Each Perseid meteor is a tiny fragment of the Swift Tuttle comet. Their radiant, or point in the sky from which they appear and where they get their name, is in the constellation Perseus.
According to NASA, the Perseids are considered, “the best meteor shower of the year.” That’s a tall order! However, the Perseids usually deliver with up to 100 meteors in an hour, making it one of the most abundant showers!
The Perseids are also extremely bright and fast! In fact, NASA states that the meteors travel at a speed of 132,000 miles per hour, 500 times quicker than the fastest car on Earth!
However, the Perseid meteor shower is perhaps best known for its fireballs, created from bigger explosions of color and light, leaving behind a larger “wake” than most other meteors.
Unlike the Delta Aquariids, Perseid meteors are often easy to spot, thanks to the balmy nighttime summer sky. The Perseids are best viewed during the hours before dawn in the Northern hemisphere.
Remember to find an area away from city and streetlights and lie on your back, allowing your eyes to adjust to the night sky. Look up and take in one of the best meteor showers of the year!
Aug. 13 – Spica makes an appearance
Fix your gaze to the sky this evening to observe the bright star Spica, which will be visible to the lower right of the Moon.
Aug. 16 – Antares appears
This evening, until just after midnight the next day (Aug. 17), look up to see the bright star Antares which will be visible to the lower right of the Moon.
Aug. 18 – A chance to see Mercury, Mars, and Venus
Just before evening twilight ends, look up to the sky and try to see Mercury (which will be brighter) and Mars, which may be visible just slightly above the horizon about half an hour after sunset. The two will appear close together, separated by just 0.14 degrees. Also, look to the upper left of Mercury and Mars to catch a glimpse of Venus!
Aug. 19 – Full Jupiter
Just as Saturn was at opposition earlier this month, Jupiter is at opposition (its closest and brightest for the year) this afternoon! Don’t miss your chance to see a full Jupiter, which you can observe with a telescope from sunset to sunrise, assuming clear skies.
You also might be able to see Jupiter’s four largest moons: Ganymede, Callisto, Europa, and lo.
Aug. 22 – Full Moon
This morning (around 7:02 a.m. CT), look up to the sky to see August’s full Moon, also known as the Sturgeon Moon or the Green Corn Moon. The Moon will look full from Friday night to Monday morning.
Watch the video below to find out what constellations you can see in August. This video is produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute, home of science operations for the Hubble Space Telescope, in partnership with NASA’s Universe of Learning.
Spot the Station
Watch the International Space Station pass overhead from several thousand worldwide locations. It is the third brightest object in the sky and easy to spot if you know when to look up. Visible to the naked eye, it looks like a fast-moving plane only much higher and traveling thousands of miles an hour faster! Find out when you can spot the station.