August Skies - Perseid meteor shower peaks Aug. 12
The Moon is in new phase on the 1st, so won’t be visible until a day or two later. On the 9th, Jupiter is a couple of degrees away to the south, while Saturn cuddles up on the 12th, an occultation for South Pacific viewers. Pluto is also occulted in the Southern Hemisphere on the 12th. This would seem to be a very difficult observation, but an experienced observer would locate the tiny object a few nights before to know which one would glide behind the Moon. This is just about the only way an amateur astronomer can sight Pluto, by observing for a few nights in a row, then detecting which “star” has moved against the backdrop. It can be done, but with difficulty. The Moon is full on the15th. By the 21st, Uranus is 5 degrees north of the waning gibbous Moon, “gibbous” meaning humped, like a camel’s back. On the 28th, the Moon glides through the stars of the Beehive Cluster (M44). On the 30th, the Moon is new and at perigee, combining with the Sun to generate very high tides in coastal waters on the following days.
Mercury shines in the morning eastern sky, gradually pulling away from the Sun in the second week to greatest western elongation on the 9th.
Venus can’t be seen this month.
Mars can’t be seen this month.
Jupiter has been retrograding since April, and reaches its stationary point on the 11th, to begin prograde motion thereafter. Watch for the nearby Moon on the 9th.
Saturn is prominent in the evening sky, crossing from east to west all through the night. The Moon shares the spotlight on the 12th, in a very close conjunction of 0.04 degrees.
Uranus, in prograde motion, reaches its stationary point on August 12, to begin retrograde motion for a few months.
Neptune appears in mid-evening, retrograding in Aquarius.
The Perseid meteor shower peaks annually on August 12, near midnight.
James Edgar has had an interest in the night sky all his life. He joined The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada in 2000, was National President for two terms, is now the Editor of the renowned Observer’s Handbook, and Production Manager of the bi-monthly RASC Journal. The IAU named asteroid 1995 XC5 “(22421) Jamesedgar” in his honour.