As the month opens, the moon is just past first quarter, approaching full phase. Jupiter is 1.5 degrees north and Saturn is two degrees north, respectively. Pluto, if you can find it, is 1.1 degrees north, as well. Full moon is Aug. 3. Aug. 9, Mars is less than a degree north of the moon, which is an occultation in the extreme Southern Hemisphere. Aug. 10, Uranus is four degrees north of the last-quarter moon. Aug. 15 sees Venus four degrees south of the moon; Aug. 17 has our very thin satellite skimming the stars of the Beehive Cluster (M44). The moon is new Aug. 19. By Aug. 28, the moon had made a complete orbit and is again joined up with Jupiter, Saturn, and Pluto.
Mercury, the speedy planet, is easily seen in the eastern early morning sky, but quickly rounds behind the sun by mid-month, and becoming an evening object by month end.
Venus, often called the Morning Star, shines brightly high in the eastern sky. It reaches greatest elongation west (GEW) Aug. 13, then slowly begins its descent to orbit behind the sun. By Aug. 15 the crescent moon has caught up to Venus, gliding by four degrees to the north. In the last part of August, Venus moves through the stars of Gemini.
Mars gains prominence in the late evening and through the night as it nears Earth. Astrophotographers are already getting clear images of the Red Planet as it closes in on opposition in October. The waning gibbous moon glides closely by Aug. 9.
Jupiter shows off its stripes in the evening, also a good opportunity to see the nightly dance of the Galilean moons as they change position, sometimes right before your eyes. The nearly full moon passes by Aug. 1 and 2 and Aug. 28.
Saturn is just to the east of Jupiter, which is 10 times brighter. A telescope can bring out the rings and even some of Saturn’s tiny moons – as many as five can be seen on a good night of steady watching. The moon is nearby Aug. 2 and 29.
Uranus is just a few degrees east of Mars, rising around 11 p.m. The moon is four degrees south Aug. 10. The blue-green gas planet begins to retrograde after Aug.15.
Neptune rises about 10 p.m. and crosses the sky all through the night. The moon is close by Aug. 6.
Aug. 12 brings the annual meteor shower, the Perseids.
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 Observer’s Handbook, and production manager of the bi-monthly RASC Journal. The IAU named asteroid 1995 XC5 “(22421) Jamesedgar” in his honour.