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Look Up! A Stargazer’s Guide to August 2017

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Look Up! A Stargazer’s Guide to August 2017

There are lots of great reasons to look skyward in August, including the best meteor shower the year, and of course the Great American Solar Eclipse!  Here’s a recap of what celestial wonders you can expect to see this month:

All times listed in Eastern Time, and based on viewing from the Northern Hemisphere: 

August 1– As darkness falls, look for the waxing gibbous Moon to locate Antares, the brightest star in the constellation Scorpius, and to their left is Saturn; the three objects form a trio. They’ll be visible again on the 2nd, with Saturn moving right below the Moon.

August 2 – The Moon will be at apogee, it’s farthest point from Earth in its orbit.  An easy way to remember: Apogee has an “A” = Away, so Perigee = closest

(Continued Below)

August 7 –  August’s full Sturgeon Moon at 2:11 p.m.  In this phase the visible Moon is fully illuminated by direct sunlight. Although the Moon is only technically in this phase for a few seconds, it is considered full for the entire day of the event and appears full for three days.

August 7 – Passing overhead at around 10 p.m. local daylight time this week are four small, faint constellations spread out near and within the Summer Triangle.  The Triangle itself is easy enough to find, being composed of three of the brightest stars in the sky (Vega, Altair and Deneb) and passing almost directly overhead between 9 and 11 p.m. local daylight time.

August 8 – Because the Moon is now in its waning gibbous phase, it rises in the east later and continues to rise later and later each evening until you can spot the daytime Moon over your western horizon after sunrise the next few mornings.

August 11-13 – The Perseids Meteor Shower. August is often regarded as “meteor month” with the appearance of one of the best displays of the year. Viewing may be hindered by the bright glow of the waning gibbous Moon but still worth a look as this shower produces some of the brightest fireballs. Best time to watch: After midnight and before dawn. These showers are named for the constellation Perseus but are bits and pieces of the Comet Swift-Tuttle which visited the inner part of the Solar System in 1992. These meteors, no bigger than grains of sand or pebbles with the consistency of cigar ash, enter the Earth’s atmosphere about 80 miles above its surface.
Where to look: Anywhere!
What you can expect: 50- 100 meteors per hour

August 12 – Mercury in retrograde. Find out what this means!

August 14 –  Last Quarter Moon, 9:15 p.m. In this phase, the Moon appears as a half Moon. One-half of the Moon is illuminated by direct sunlight while the illuminated part is decreasing, heading toward the New Moon (invisible).

August 14 – Look to the east before dawn to spot the last quarter Moon near Aldebaran, the 13th brightest star in the sky and one of the more colorful. It marks the orange eye of Taurus the Bull.

August 18 – The waning crescent Moon will be at perigee, meaning it’s at its closest point to the Earth, which happens each month. An easy way to remember: Apogee has an “A” = Away, so Perigee = closest

August 18 – Set your alarms! Look to the east, one hour before sunrise, to spot the crescent Moon paired up with Venus.

August 19 – Another chance to spot Venus with the tiny crescent Moon Look to the east, one hour before sunrise.

August 21 –  New Moon at 4:45 p.m. At this stage, the Moon is not illuminated by direct sunlight and is completely invisible to the naked eye. Some are calling this a “Black Moon” because it’s the third new Moon (of 4) in a season. So will the eclipse be a Black Moon Eclipse?

August 21 –  Total Solar Eclipse. This will mark the first time in this century, and the first time since 1979, that a total solar eclipse will cross the contiguous (48) United States (Alaska had its turn in 1990; Hawaii in 1991). The shadow track —better known as the “path of totality” — will sweep only over the United States and no other country for the very first time, leading some to refer to this upcoming event as “The Great American Eclipse.” See which cities are in the best spot to view here.

August 23 –  Grab your binoculars and look to the western horizon 1 hour after sunset to spot a tiny sliver of the waxing crescent Moon.

August 25 –  Look low to the western horizon after sunset to see the tiny waxing crescent Moon pair up with Jupiter and as it grows darker, Spica will join below them, forming a trio.

August 27 – This time of year in the pre dawn sky, Orion the Hunter will be visible, marking the change of seasons. And if you follow the 3 stars of his belt downward, you’ll find Sirius the Dog Str, the sky’s brightest star.

Information compiled with assistance from astronomer, Joe Rao.

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