The August Night Sky

night sky

Who’s ready for some stargazing?

If you’re ready, then you’re in luck cause summertime is the best time for stargazing.

As a kid, I loved going stargazing with my dad!

He loved the sky especially on a hot summer night when the sky is so clear that you see the stars like a sea of lights!

Most people know what I am talking about as Summer is time for family vacation and/or camping and one of the best night activities while camping or on vacation is stargazing.

Did you use to go stargazing as kids?

So for the experts and newbies alike, Summer nights feature a fantastic array of stars stretched across the sky!

Here is the scoop for the month of August:

This article titled “The August night sky” was written by Alan Pickup, for The Guardian on Sunday 31st July 2016 20.30 UTC


August star chart <<< View the chart
Graphic: Finbarr Sheehy

The Perseids meteor shower is a reliable highlight of our August nights, and there are grounds for hoping that we might enjoy a bonanza this year.

Rich in bright meteors, it began more than a week ago and builds to a peak predicted for about 13:00 BST on 12 August before petering out after the 20th.

Expect the highest meteor rates on the nights of the 11/12th and 12/13th.

Perseids appear in all parts of the sky, their paths pointing back to a radiant point in Perseus – hence the shower’s name.

That radiant is climbing through the middle of Britain’s NE sky at nightfall to stand just E of overhead before dawn.

Meteor rates increase with the radiant’s altitude, so the morning hours are favored, particularly since the Moon sets in the middle of the night on the critical dates.

Perseids: breathtaking timelapse video of meteor shower over California

An observer with the radiant overhead in a fully dark moonless sky might count 80 or more Perseids per hour at the maximum.

There are claims that the rates could be higher this year, even twice as high, because of a periodic gravitational pull of Jupiter on the stream of Perseids meteoroids that follows the orbit of its parent comet, Swift-Tuttle.

Our chart shows the Summer Triangle of Vega, Deneb and Altair high on the meridian as the Square of Pegasus climbs in the E.

The only bright planet on the chart, Saturn at mag 0.4, is sinking in the SW but stands some 15° high in the S as darkness falls at present.

It hardly moves this month, being 6° above Scorpius’ star Antares.

Brighter, but fading from mag –0.8 to –0.3, is Mars which stands 11° below and right of Saturn on the 1st, and tracks E to pass between Saturn and Antares, and 1.8° above the star, on the 24th.

Although it sets before our map times, Mars is the most obvious object very low in our SSW to SW sky at nightfall where it lies below the Moon on the 11th.

Brighter still, and conspicuous in the W at nightfall for more southerly observers, are Venus and Jupiter, with Mercury currently between them.

All lie deep in Britain’s bright evening twilight where Venus blazes at mag –3.9 but is only 5° high at sunset and sets itself 40 minutes later. Jupiter, mag –1.7, is a little higher to its left and, while easier to spy at present, will certainly require binoculars by the 27th when we see it only 8 arcmin below-left of Venus.

August Night Sky diary

2nd 22h New moon

10th 19h First quarter

11th 23h Moon 8° N of Mars

12th 13h Peak of Perseids meteor shower

13th 19h Saturn stationary

16th 22h Mercury furthest E of Sun (27°)

18th 10h Full moon

25th 05h Last quarter; 19h Mars 4° S of Saturn

27th 23h Venus 0.1° N of Jupiter

* Times are BST © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.


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