This Month’s Sky – August 2016


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

August’s Evening Planets: Jupiter will be in Virgo the Maiden until 10 PM and setting earlier every night until 9 PM by the end of August. Mars will be in Scorpio the Scor-pion until midnight. Saturn will be in Scorpio the Scorpion all night. Bright Venus will be in Leo the Lion, and Mercury will be between Leo the Lion and Virgo the Maiden for about one hour after sunset. Dwarf Pluto is in Sagittarius the Arch-er and Neptune is in Aquarius the Water Bearer every night. Uranus will be in Pisces the Fish around midnight and earlier every night until 10 PM by the end of the month.

August’s Evening Stars: Spot the Summer Triangle of Vega in Lyra the Harp, Deneb in Cygnus the Swan, and Al-tair 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, Sagit-tarius, Capricornus, Aquarius, Hercules, Andromeda, Pega-sus, and Ursa Minor and Ursa Major (the Big and Little Dip-pers).

August’s Morning Planets: Uranus will be in Pisces the Fish and Neptune is in Aquarius the Water Bearer.

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 Ori-on the Hunter, as well as the stars of constellations Lyra, Hercules, Aquarius, Capricornus, Pisces, Aries, Draco, Pega-sus, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Andromeda, and the two Dippers

August “Skylights”
Aug 2 New Moon at 4:45 PM
Aug 9 Moon at apogee (251,200 miles away)
Aug 10 First Quarter Moon at 2:20 PM
Aug 12 Perseid meteor shower peak, pre-dawn
Aug 13 Saturn is stationary 2:00 PM
Aug 18 Full Moon at 5:25 PM
Aug 20 Venus, Mercury and Jupiter form a small triangle, sunset
Aug 21 Moon at perigee (229,000 miles away)
Aug 24 Last Quarter Moon at 11:40 PM
Aug 29 Mercury is stationary 9:00 PM

The Summer Triangle

Dominating the summer night sky are three bright stars that form a triangular asterism known as the Summer Triangle. The three stars are Vega, Deneb, and Altair, the brightest stars of three different constellations. The Summer Triangle will be up all night during the month of August.

Vega is the brightest star of the constellation Lyra the Harp. It is 16 times larger than our Sun, twice as massive, and forty times brighter. Only 25 light-years away, it’s in the close neighborhood of our Solar System.

Lyra is affiliated with the harp of Orpheus from Greek my-thology. In Japanese folklore, Vega represents the princess Orihime, with a story simi-lar to that of the weaver girl of the Qixi Festival in Chinese culture.

Altair in Aquila the Eagle is about 8 times larger than the Sun, twice as massive, and 10 times brighter. It is one of the closest stars to Earth at just 16.7 light years away. Altair is actually a multi-star system with three dim companion stars Altair B, C, and D.

In Greek mythology Aquila represents the eagle of Zeus (Jupiter to the Romans), or sometimes it refers to the king of the gods himself. It is linked to several stories including that of the eagle that abducted the shepherd Ganymede to serve the gods on Mount Olympus. In Japanese mythology, Altair represents Hikoboshi the lover of princess Orihime, similar to the cowherd of Chinese legend.

Deneb in the constellation Cygnus the Swan is a blue-white supergiant about 8 million times larger than the Sun and 100,000 times brighter. Its exact distance is not confirmed, though it is estimated to be about 2,000 light years away.

Cygnus is related to several Greek stories, including the seduction or rape of Leda, the queen of Sparta, by Zeus, disguised as a swan. Conceiving children with both the god and her husband, Leda gave birth to two sets of twins, Castor and Pollux (Gemini) one mortal and one immortal.

Sources: space.com; IAU; Encyclopedia Britannica.