July Blue Moon, Travis Novitsky, 2015

Minnesota Skies: August 2020

Your local guide to observing celestial objects and events


Indigenous Moons

Traditionally, Indigenous people keenly observed celestial objects, especially the Moon, and kept track of the passing of time. Each full Moon marked the passing of one month and reflected the “moon time” of women (menstruation). Seasonal activities that were culturally significant each month became the name of each month. Some years had 13 moons. Like a drum beat or a heartbeat, the rhythm of the sky was unfolding in the seasons and in the phases of the Moon.

To acknowledge the cycles of the Moon was to become part of something bigger, the cosmic cycle. In this way, knowing the Moon was more than timekeeping; it was and still is about building a relationship with sky.

Dibiki Giizisoog: Ojibwe Moons

July Moon
Aabita-niibino-giizis (Mid-summer Moon)

August Moon
Manoominike-giizis (Ricing Moon)

Haƞ Wi: Dakota Moons

July Moon
• C̣aƞpaṡa Wi/Čhaŋphá Šá Wí (Red Chokecherry Moon)
C̣aƞpaṡapa Wi/Čhaŋphá Šápa Wí (Moon when the Chokecherries are Ripe/Black)
• Waṡuƞpa Wi (Moon when the Geese Shed their Feathers)

August Moon
• Wasúthuŋ Wí/Wasuṭuƞ Wi (Harvest Moon)

Indigenous Contributors

Carl Gawboy is a professor emeritus, elder, and artist from the Bois Fort Reservation. Carl’s work on Ojibwe astronomy spans four decades.

Dakhóta iápi Okhódakičhiye (Dakota Language Society) for Dakota language help.

Iyekiyapiwiƞ Darlene St. Clair is an associate professor, Mni Sota MakỌce project lead, and an enrolled member of the Lower Sioux Indian Community.

Jeffrey Tibbetts is the Title III director at Fond du Lac Tribal & Community College, an artist, and is Ojibwe from the Fond du Lac Reservation.

Ramona Kitto Stately is an enrolled member of Santee Sioux nation and project director of WASH-MN (We are still here, Minnesota!)

Travis Novitsky is a professional nature photographer from the Grand Portage Anishinaabe Nation in Northeast Minnesota.

William Wilson is an artist, elder, and first language Ojibwe speaker from Gull Bay First Nation.

Moon Phases

August 3—Full Moon
The Moon is located on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun and the side we see is fully illuminated.

August 11—Third Quarter Moon
This phase occurs when the Moon is three-quarters of the way through its orbit around the Earth.

August 19—New Moon
The Moon is located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and is not visible in the night sky. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects like galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

August 25—First Quarter Moon
The Moon is one quarter of its way through its orbit around the Earth, which makes half the Moon illuminated and half dark from our perspective. This is the best time of the month to see the Moon’s surface features like craters and mountains through binoculars or a telescope.

Learn with Annette S. Lee, PhD, during a recent Facebook Live event entitled, “A Loon, a Crane, a Fisher, & a Salamander in the MN Night Sky.” Many thanks to our generous co-hosts, Native Skywatchers and Annette S. Lee, PhD.


August—throughout the month

Look to the south-southeast at around 10:30 am to see Jupiter and Saturn close by each other. Both will be present in the evening sky throughout the month, rising higher and higher above the horizon as the month goes along.

Mars: Stay up a couple of hours more after looking for Jupiter and Saturn to catch the fiery red planet rising in the east. Mars will be visible throughout the month, look for it from midnight until sunrise.

Venus: at 4:30 am throughout August, the brightest planet we can see will shine in the early morning sky. It will be highest in the sky on the morning of August 13, when it reaches its greatest western elongation, look for it a full hand length above the horizon to the east.

August 9–14: Perseids Meteor Shower

This August we will once again be rewarded with one of the most prolific meteor showers. The Perseids is one of the best meteor showers to watch, producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak between August 9 and 14. With so many bright meteors, even the third quarter moon won’t be able to ruin the show! And the more times you get outside, the better your chances of seeing this awesome meteor shower.
You can increase your chances of seeing meteors by traveling away from city lights, waiting until it is very dark—several hours after sunset or before sunrise—and sitting in a chair (don’t strain your neck!). Meteors can appear at any point in the sky so don’t bother with binoculars or a telescope; they’ll limit your view. Meteors are also moving at about 58 km per second (36 miles per second!) so they’ll only be visible for a few seconds. That means you might be the only person to ever see any meteor.

August 15–23: Look for the center of the Milky Way

The week of the new moon will be the best time throughout August to see the core of our galaxy. Without the extra Moon, the brightest stars and clouds of dust at galactic center will be visible to the south at 11 pm, until they set to the southwest at 2 pm.