August can be a spectacular month so far as the night sky is concerned. It marks one of the main meteor showers of the year, the Perseids. If you are fortunate to be holidaying in North America, there will be total solar eclipse on the 21st of the month.
The Plough lies north west with the ‘W’ of Cassiopeia at the same height in the north east. The four stars that make the square of Pegasus are becoming more noticeable in the north east and the summer triangle of stars Altair, Deneb and Vega are still very dominant in the summer sky. Arcturus is dropping to the west while Antares is now past its best.
The southern part of the sky is still taken up by the formless Hercules, Ophiuchus and Serpens. Yet more dull constellations are appearing low in the south east; these are Capricornus, and Aquarius, and although both lie in the zodiac there is nothing else to recommend them.
Jupiter shines in the west after sunset. It is located in Virgo with a magnitude of –1.7. It sets around 10pm.
Shinning with a magnitude of +0.4 Saturn lies low in the south in Ophiuchus, and sets about 1am.
Located in Aquarius, Neptune rises around 9pm. With a magnitude of +7.8.
An hour later it is followed by Uranus, which lies in Pisces at magnitude +5.8.
Venus dominates the pre dawn sky. Rising about 2.30am with a brilliant magnitude of –3.9. Around 25th of this month, you will find the twin stars of Gemini; Caster and Pollux directly above the morning star.
Both Mercury and Mars will be too close to the sun to be visible this month
The most anticipated meteor shower of the year, the Perseids will peak on the night on August 12/13 when around 80 meteors per hour can be seen, although many meteors will be seen a day either side. This year however, the Moon will spoil the display after it rises at midnight.
The Perseids are connected with comet Swift-Tuttle which was discovered by Lewis swift and Horrace Tuttle in 1862. The comet takes 133 years to orbit the Sun. However the meteor shower has a very long history.
Phases of the Moon for August
Full Moon 7th August
Last Quarter 15th August
New Moon 21st August
First Quarter 29th August