Although the nights are still short they are slowly lengthening.
Sadly one of the best annual displays of shooting starts on the 12th of August the Perseid meteor shower; One of the most reliable displays of shooting stars will be washed out by light pollution from the full sturgeon Supermoon. The last supermoon of this year.
This month we have a return of the planets to the evening sky. They have been only on view to the early riser since February. So we are treated to a procession of planets that will brighten up our skies until the end of the year, led by Saturn, which is at its closest to Earth this 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.
An indication that summer is drawing to a close is the return of Orion the hunter in the eastern pre dawn sky. Sometimes called the ‘Ghost of the shimmering summer dawn’. If you’re up early and have an unobstructed view to the east, be sure to look in that direction in the hour before dawn, The Hunter, recently behind the sun as seen from our earthly vantage point and now ascending once more before sunrise. The Hunter rises on his side, with his three Belt stars; Mintaka, Alnitak and Alnilam pointing straight up. This August, there’s a very bright object not far from the Hunter, also in the east before sunup. It’s the planet Venus. Watch for them both.
Saturn lies in Capricornus and is visible all night long. The ringworld reaches it’s brightest this year at magnitude +0.3; when it is opposite the Sun and nearest to the Earth on the 14th of this month. Using a low power telescope you will get a great view of the famous rings.
Neptune, is on the borders of Aquarius and Pisces. With a dim magnitude of +7.8 it rises around 9.30pm.
Jupiter clears the horizon about 10pm. Blazing away at magnitude –2.8, this month it has strayed out of the constellation of Pisces and into neighbouring Cetus.
Uranus at magnitude +5.8 rises around 11pm in Aries.
Mars also lies in Aries. On 1st August the red planet lies directly below Uranus and will be outshining the distant world a hundred times over, at magnitude +0.1. Mars rises about 11.30pm and as the month progresses it will continue to move leftwards into Taurus. On the 20th and 21st it passes below the Pleiades star cluster, with the waning Moon nearby. As the Month draws to a close Mars approaches Aldebaran.
Venus rises around 4am. It is the brightest of all the planets at magnitude –3.9. During August the morning star is gradually sinking down into the morning twilight glow.
Mercury is at its greatest separation on the 27th, however it will be too close to the Sun all month for observation.
Other highlights :-
3rd August – The almost half Moon will be near the star Spica.
6th August – The half Moon moves in front of the star Dschubba (Magnitude +2.3) in the constellation of Scorpius.
11th August – The planet Saturn lies to the upper left of the almost full Moon.
12th August – The full ‘Sturgeon Moon’ will be a supermoon, and it will be the last supermoon of 2022.
14th and 15th August – The bright star near the Moon is in fact the planet Jupiter.
19th and 20th August – The half Moon passes the Red planet Mars, the Pleiades star cluster and the star Aldebaran.
21st August – Mars lies directly below the Pleiades with Aldebaran and and the almost half Moon to the left.
24th August – The crescent Moon with be near the twin stars Castor and Pollux.
26th August – On the eastern horizon before dawn you may catch the thinnest crescent Moon lying to the left of brilliant Venus.
30th and 31st August – The crescent Moon is close to the star Spica.
He nights of the 12th and 13th August will be the maximum of the Perseid meteor shower. With the Moon being a full supermoon we will be unable to see the usual abundance of fast, bright shooting stars. 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.
Phases of the Moon :-
First quarter 5th August
Full Moon 12th August
Last quarter 19th August
New Moon 27th August