Consider a planetarium program to help you plan your observations. There are many commercial products available, and a very good program (Cartes du Ciel) is available free at http://www.ap-i.net/skychart/en/start.
Familiar to most of us is the band of twelve constellations that encircle the Earth along the ecliptic. As you may recall, the ecliptic is the Sun’s apparent path through the sky and therefore the Sun, planets, and the Moon pass “through” each of the zodiac’s constellations on their individual journeys through the sky.
Some consider Ophiuchus (near Scorpius and Sagittarius) as the thirteenth constellation in the zodiac, because occasionally a planet drifts into its realm. In fact, Saturn has been residing in Ophiuchus for the past several weeks!
Tuesday (August 9)
Venus is beginning its evening apparition that will continue through the end of the coming winter. Look about 20 minutes after sunset in the west, and Venus will be to the lower right of Jupiter by 18 degrees (see last week’s blog for some easy ways to determine arc distances in the sky).
Thursday (August 11)
The Moon joins Saturn, Mars, and Antares to form kind of a tilted diamond pattern.
The annual Perseid meteor shower should be at its peak late tonight. The Moon will sets about 1 a.m., and the sky will then be dark during the best meteor-watching hours. This year’s event is predicted to be especially strong, because Jupiter slightly perturbed some of the Perseid meteoroid stream 16 months ago.
Friday (August 12)
The Perseids continue late tonight, although they reached their peak last night (and now the Moon doesn’t set until about 1:30 or 2 a.m.). Sue Hardesty is planning a “meteor party” at the Pueblo Nature and Raptor Center; if you’re interested, contact Sue at email@example.com.
Mercury and Venus (in Leo)
Look very low in the west about 20 minutes after sunset. Binoculars will help, and you might sight Venus easier if you find Jupiter first (see above). Mercury will be 9 degrees to Venus’s left or upper left (east).
Mars (in Scorpius)
Mars is in retrograde, moving eastward against the stars and back toward Saturn and Antares. The current triangle that these three objects form will turn into an almost straight, vertical line on August 23rd and 24th.
Jupiter (in Virgo)
Low in the due west at twilight, to the upper left of Venus (see above).
Saturn (in Ophiuchus)
Look to the south at dusk. Saturn is 6 degrees above Antares and just a little farther than that to the upper left (east) of Mars.
Uranus (in Pisces)
High in the east after midnight.
Neptune (in Aquarius)
High in the southeast after midnight.
BRIGHT IRIDIUM FLARES
Sunday (August 7): Magnitude -3.1; 9:42 p.m.; E; 55 degrees elevation
Saturday (August 13): Magnitude -3.7; 8:49 p.m.; ESE; 63 degrees elevation
INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION (ISS)
Sorry – these are too numerous to list here! If you’re serious, load the ISS DETECTOR app on your smart phone or tablet.
Dave Furry, SCAS Director of Education