August skies offer celestial treats from meteors to Mars
As we move deeper into the summer monsoon season, we can be assured of some nights which are filled with lightning and thunder, along with some with clearing skies, too.
The nights with the clear skies are going to reveal some amazing sights, too!
August is the month of one of the most reliable of all meteor showers, the annual Perseid meteor shower.
This year, we will be looking for some favorable skies to view the fireworks.
The Perseid meteor shower will peak on the mornings of Aug. 11-13, if you look high in the northeast sky around 2 a.m. Arizona time
The Perseid meteor shower is one of the most famous of all and comes from the debris of comet Swift-Tuttle, designated 109P/Swift-Tuttle
The comet has an orbital period of 133 years and has provided our world with one of the most reliable of all meteor showers of the entire year.
With comet NEOWISE the big news of the summer, we look to connect the current comet and this meteor shower in our August sky-watching routine.
As you wait for the debris of comet Swift-Tuttle in the form of Perseids, look to the early evening skies – comet NEOWISE is still within binocular range.
Here is an important link to help you locate the comet during the month of August.
After passing the stars of Ursa Major, the Big Dipper, NEOWISE will move towards the direction of the bright orange star Arcturus.
A telescope will be needed to view the comet, after the mid period of August.
Now, back to the Perseid meteor shower!
During the peak period of the meteor shower, expect to see upwards of 50 meteors per hour in dark skies.
There will be a last quarter moon, washing out some of the fainter meteors, but still a good experience for your summer 2020 outings!
Here is a detailed chart to help you locate the radiant of the Perseids.
In other August news, the moon begins the month nearly full. Get set for the full sturgeon moon on the evening of Aug. 3. The moon then moves on to last quarter Aug. 11, just in time for the meteor shower.
New moon will occur Aug. 18, with the first quarter exactly seven days later.
Planets fill our August skies, as Jupiter and Saturn remain a bright together in the SE sky at sunset. Mars will appear to get brighter and closer to Earth during August, rising in the E around 10 p.m. MST. Venus is the bright planet high in the northeast at dawn.
Mars will be closing in on the Earth and by October and will come within some 38 million miles of us. It is a great telescopic sight.
Even during August, observers with moderate-sized telescopes will get a great view of the surface details on Mars.
Here is one of the best links to help you appreciate this year’s Mars encounter.
For those of you with moderate to large telescopes, here is a tool to help you locate the many features on Mars.
Mars is an exciting planet and a whole fleet of spacecraft are heading its way!
To print your own monthly star chart, click here.
To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.
Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday at 3 a.m.