The planets continue their ballet this month. Add a meteor shower and nature treats us to a wonderful show. All month, around dusk, look for brilliant Venus low in the W, Jupiter in the SW, Saturn in the SSE and ruddy colored Mars low in the SE. Use Moon as a guide as noted in the sky highlights below. For a challenge, use binoculars to look for Mercury 8 degrees above the ENE horizon at 5:45 am on August 26. Then look down at Earth and you have seen all six naked eye planets in one month. Visit the museum for a show in the Whitney & Elizabeth MacMillan Planetarium and you will learn exactly where to look.
The Perseid meteor shower should be good this month with no Moon light to interfere. Weather permitting, the best viewing will occur in the early morning hours of August 13 but the morning before or after might be good too. Just lie down on a blanket or deck chair and watch for grain size bits of comet showing up as quick streaks of light in Earth’s atmosphere. Get away from street and yard lights for optimal viewing. In dark conditions, expect to see as many as a meteor a minute.
Meteor spotting is fun with a group of people facing different directions and shouting out when they see one. For more information, try EarthSky.org and then enjoy the show.
Detailed information on this month’s sky pairings and highlights.
|1-31||Four planets all month: Mars low SE, Saturn SSE, Jupiter SW, Venus low W||9:30 p.m. on Aug 1
8:30 p.m. on Aug 31
|1-31||Mars bright all month|
|12-13||Perseid meteor shower||Best viewed from 1-5 am on 8/13|
|14||Brilliant Venus below thin crescent Moon -Gorgeous||8:30 – 9:15 p.m. W|
|16||Jupiter left of Moon||9 – 10:15 p.m. SW|
|17||Jupiter below right of Moon||9 – 10:15 p.m. SW|
|20||Yellowish Saturn 4 degrees left of Moon||10 – 12 p.m. S to SW|
|22||Ruddy Mars below left of Moon||9 p.m. SSE to 2 a.m. SW|
|23||Mars below right of Moon||9 p.m. SSE to 2 a.m. SW|
|31||Bright star Spica about 1 degree above brilliant Venus||8:30 p.m. very low W|
When viewing planets, stars or constellations in the night sky, it is helpful to use a sky map.
Minnesota Starwatch is another great resource for tracking the night sky.