The Sky This Week August 14 – 20

The Sky This Week August 14 – 20

The sky this week holds a few interesting celestial sights worth mentioning. Although it has been insufferably hot here on the east coast of the United States, I still take a little time to step outside and look up at the night sky. That said, did anyone get to see the Perseid meteor shower? Here in southeastern Pennsylvania the skies were overcast much of the time so we didn’t get to see the event. You may still get to see some of the meteor shower…  over the next few nights but the rate of meteors will be considerably less as the week goes on.

Venus is in the beginning stages of a long and spectacular evening apparition that will last through most of the winter months. Starting Monday, August 15, look about 20 or 25 minutes after sunset by spotting Jupiter low due west through the twilight. Venus shines to Jupiter’s lower right by 12°, about a fist-width at arm’s length. Bring a pair of binoculars and look for fainter Mercury, 5° below or lower right of Jupiter.

The Moon is almost full on the night of August 16th and shines in the southeast after dark. With your binoculars, look about one binocular field to the Moon’s upper right (this may only work for observers in Northern US) for Alpha and Beta Capricorni, two binocular double stars. The yellow pair is Alpha Capricorni and is the easiest pair. A bit more difficult is Beta Capricorni which is 2.3° below Alpha.

Here’s a quick fact: Did you know that at this time of year, once sunset is complete and sky fills with stars, Cassiopeia has climbed almost as high in the northeast as the Big Dipper has declined in the northwest.

Saturn, Mars & Antares August 23, 2016.
Saturn, Mars & Antares August 23, 2016.

So, while Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter are very low in bright twilight, Mars (in upper Scorpius), is moving rapidly eastward toward Saturn and Antares. The three form an almost straight, vertical line on August 23rd and 24th, when Mars slingshots between the other two. Sounds like a good photo op to me.

That wraps it up for this week. Wishing you clear skies. Get out there!

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