Looking Up

August 2022

The last few months we reported that all the planetary action was occurring in the morning sky. That changes this month. For starters, Mercury is in the early evening sky, though it is a challenge. Technically, greatest separation from the Sun is August 27 but it’s not the greatest view of Mercury. The planet’s orbit makes a shallow angle with the horizon, thus Mercury sets soon after sunset. Look for it low and nearly due west. It sets at around 9pm in mid-August, a full hour after sunset, but you’ll be looking into twilight. A super-thin Moon is the right of Mercury on the evening of the 28th . Next up is the opposition of Saturn which occurs on the 14th. Saturn is opposite the Sun from our viewpoint, meaning Saturn and Earth are on the same side of the solar system together. Thus Saturn rises at sunset in the east-southeast and is in the sky all night. Saturn is also closest to the Earth and thus looks large through a telescope. The entire month is prime for viewing! I had to check but Saturn has 83 moons now but only 8 are within reach of amateur telescopes. It will be a target at our skywatches for sure! Jupiter rises next just after 10:30pm CDT on August 1st but this time decreases to 8:30pm at the end of the month. It sits in the sky at the Pisces/Cetus border. Did you see the Juno spacecraft’s photo of a Jovian thunderstorm? Amazing! The magazines are reporting you can see a double moon shadow on Jupiter after 10:24pm on the 15th. Get those telescopes out of the closet! Early in the month, Mars rises just after midnight (about 12:30am) in the constellation Aries. On the 10th Mars moves into Taurus. On the morning of the 19th, the just-after-the-lastquarter-Moon comes between Mars and the Pleiades star cluster. The Moon moves on and Mars then moves further into Taurus, roughly bisecting a line from Aldebaran and the Pleiades on the 29th. By early September, Mars “becomes” one of the stars in the Hyades star cluster, marking the face of Taurus. For a while Taurus will have two red eyes with Aldebaran being the other! Mars is rising at 11:30pm by month’s end. If you’re up for a challenge, the planet Uranus is a few degrees from Mars on August 2nd . Venus begins the month as an extra “star” in Gemini. Venus has been in the morning sky since just after New Year’s, but that residency is starting to end. Venus is slowly heading back towards the Sun, rising closer to sunrise time. In mid-August, you’ll need to get up after 4:45am to catch it. On the 17th, Venus is a foreground object to the Beehive Cluster, though you’ll need to look really low in the sky as the twilight will wipe out the cluster. A thin crescent Moon is above Venus on the morning of the 25th . By the end of August, it’s rising at 5:10am. It’s not a good year for the Perseid Meteor Shower. The maximum is predicted to occur on the evening of the 12th into the morning of the 13th. The trouble will be the full Moon occurring the day before, brightening the sky, masking the fainter meteors. Normally I’d suggest finding a dark sky, out of town, to check out the shower, but the Moon will disrupt those plans. But maybe look from your backyard as you never know what might happen. On the 14th last year, the Earth hit a filament of meteor particles and the rates increased dramatically. Who knows what might happen this year? Lastly, the second largest and brightest asteroid, Vesta, reaches opposition this month on the 23rd. Vesta should reach magnitude 6, located just below Saturn in the east-southeast. It’s not too far from the Helix Nebula. Good luck! -DCL New Moon August 27 September 25 3rd Quarter