This Month’s Sky – August 2015

What’s Up in the Sky
AAA Observers’ August Guide
By Tony Faddoul

August’s Evening Planets:

Bright Venus can be seen below Leo the Lion shortly after sunset in the month’s first week. Jupiter will be in Cancer the Crab for an hour after sunset in the first half of August. Mercury will be up for an hour after sunset, moving between Leo and Virgo the Virgin. Neptune is in Aquarius the Water Bearer as of 10 PM, rising earlier every night until 8 PM at the end of August. Uranus can be found in Pisces the Fish, rising an hour after Neptune. See Saturn in Libra the Scales until 1 AM, setting earlier every night until 11 PM at the end of the month. Dwarf planet Pluto is in Sagittarius the Archer all night.

August’s Evening Stars:

Spot the Summer Triangle of Vega in Lyra the Harp, Deneb in Cygnus the Swan, and Altair in Aquila the Eagle all night. See Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion and Arcturus in Boötes the Herdsman. Also, find the stars of constellations Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Draco, Sagittarius, Capricornus, Aquarius, Hercules, Andromeda, Pegasus, and the two Dippers throughout the month.

 August’s Morning PlanetsFind bright Venus under Cancer shortly before sunrise in the last half of August. Mars is up around 5 AM between Gemini the Twins and Cancer. Uranus will be in Pisces and Neptune is in Aquarius until sunrise.

 August’s Morning Stars: See the Summer Triangle of Vega, Deneb, and Altair. Look for Capella in Auriga the Charioteer, Aldebaran in Taurus the Bull, Beetlejuice in Orion the Hunter, as well as the stars of constellations Lyra, Hercules, Aquarius, Capricornus, Pisces, Aries, Draco, Pegasus, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Andromeda, and the two Dippers..

August Skylights

August 1  Venus, Jupiter, and Mercury form a triangle in the east at sunset

August 2  Moon at perigee (225,020 miles from Earth)

Saturn is stationary

August 5  Mercury is 8° Venus (dawn)

August 6  Last Quarter Moon at 10:00 PM

Mercury is 0.5° north of Jupiter (midnight)

August 13 Perseid Meteor Shower peaks (pre-dwan)

August 14 New Moon at 10:55 AM

August 15 Venus in interior conjunction (pre-dawn)

August 17 Moon at apogee (252,180 miles from Earth)

August 22 First Quarter Moon at 3:30 PM

August 29 Full Moon at 2:35 PM

August 30 Moon at perigee (222,630 miles from Earth)

Times given in EDT.



Perseids 2015, A Hundred Shooting Stars Every Hour

The Perseid Meteor Shower is one of the most stable shooting star events of the year. This year, it peaks on a moonless August night and promises to be a spectacular show with about a hundred meteors visible per hour.


When is the Peak?

The Perseid Meteor Shower will peak in the early hours of August 13. At the beginning of August, the meteors visible after midnight average 5 per hour. Each night of the month, the average will increase to reach about 60-100 per hour on the night of the peak in the predawn hours. The nights of August 11 and 12 will have similar, or close, number of visible meteors.

The best viewing window is in the early hours of the morning after 2:00 AM. The number of visible shooting stars intensifies every day as the peak approaches, and every night the after 2:00 AM.


Who can see the Perseids?

This meteor shower favors the skies of the northern hemisphere. Those who live further south will see fewer meteors. The southern hemisphere has the chance to about 20 meteors per hour at peak under dark skies.

What causes the Perseids?

Meteor showers are created when the Earth passes through the trail of a comet. Comet Swift-Tuttle is responsible for the Perseids display. As debris from the comet enters Earth’s atmosphere at high speed, the meteors burn up, creating a spectacle of shooting stars. Swift-Tuttle orbits the sun every 133 years and it will be back in 2126.

How to view the meteor shower?
You will see the shooting stars striking everywhere across the sky. You don’t need to look for the Radiant which is the point they seem to radiate from.

Looking north to northeast, the meteors will seem to originate from the constellation Perseus. Find a dark spot, far away as possible from light pollution, and hope for clear skies. There is no need for any equipment to view the meteor shower, and you don’t need to know the constellations. Just look up, and enjoy.