Sturgeon Moon, Meteor Shower: Sky Events To Watch Out For In August

James Marshall
August 3, 2020

The nights are gradually getting longer in the Northern Hemisphere while the warm summer weather holds strong, the flawless combination for enjoying some time under the stars in August.

July brought the rare opportunity to spot a comet in the night sky as Comet NEOWISE made its closest approach to the Earth and the sun in 6,800 years. So the rain is welcome!

Hope for clear skies as the Perseid meteors zip through the night heavens to peak August 11-12, according to astronomer Geoff Chester of the Naval Observatory. The peak is when most are visible, and the Perseids can produce up to 100 meteors per hour. But I think there will be a lot for a few nights before and after the peak.

Tonight (Aug. 2), the gibbous moon has slipped by the two planets, and the moon becomes full tomorrow (Aug. 3), according to the U.S. Naval Observatory. Find it in the morning heavens before sunrise, in the east. Wake early to catch the last quarter moon's fingernail sliver passing the dazzling planet August 15 in the Gemini constellation.

On the morning of July 30, NASA launched a new robot into space, a rover that is set to reach Mars in early 2021. So I think viewing will be good for the week after the peak.

When comets swing by our sun, they heat up and leave a dusty trail behind. The debris streak into our atmosphere at 36 miles per second, then they burn up into a fiery burst of light. It's our best and most exciting meteor shower. It is best to be in a place that's far from city lights. On August 1, Neowise will be located about 30° above the WNW horizon at 10:00 p.m. You'll need a telescope to find it in the constellation Coma Berenices, Chester said. They'll be fast moving bright streaks. At its brightest point in early July, you could easily see it with the naked eye.

Earth's other neighbor, Venus, rises around 3 a.m.in the east, standing at the intersection of the constellations Orion, Taurus and Gemini. Mercury is also visible in the morning skies.

As for comet NEOWISE, which has been putting on a great show for sky watchers in various parts of the globe, there is still a chance to catch a glimpse of it even though it has started to grow dimmer and move away.

The evening of the Full Moon will also be a good time to watch for Jupiter and Saturn, with Jupiter being visible about 19 degrees above the horizon while Saturn will be about 18 degrees above the horizon. The comet had dropped down a little, but was brighter. Then when I looked at the sky without the binoculars I could see it as a faint haze going up to the right below the Big Dipper. So that was an fantastic night!

Also on August 12 is planet Venus's greatest western elongation, which means it will appear at its greatest separation from the Sun. The Red Planet seems bright now at about -1.1 magnitude, bright enough to see from the city, and strengthens to -1.5 magnitude near August 20 and -1.7 magnitude at month's end, according to the observatory. Now skywatchers will be turning their attention to the middle of the month when one of the year's top meteor showers reaches its climax. We like to go out and soak in our hot tub while we watch the Perseids in the evening.

This has been a monthly occurrence throughout most of the year, but on the night of Friday, Aug. 28, the moon will appear in particularly close proximity to Jupiter.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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