August Night Sky
Where has the year gone? August already and nights are slowly growing dark once again, great for getting out and observing. Mars and Saturn are visible in the evening sky, with Mars drawing ever closer to Saturn as the month progresses. Look for them low in the SW late in the month. They are closest around Aug 27th, the ruddy hue of Mars contrasting nicely with pearly white Saturn. Telescopically the pair look very different, Mars appearing very small and exhibiting a hint of a phase and little else, whilst Saturn has the glorious ring system, visible through even a small instrument. The moon lies near Mars on the 2nd and Saturn a couple of days later. The planetary highlight of the month is however to be found in the dawn sky of the 18th, when Venus and a returning Jupiter appear to almost touch with the naked eye. You will need to be up early though to catch this stunning conjunction. Look to the ENE around 4.45 am; Venus will be the brighter of the two, just above Jupiter. View with binoculars or a telescope on very low magnification and you should also spot two of Jupiter’s moons, Io and Europa, as well as the lovely open star cluster known as the Beehive. If skies are forecast clear for that morning set the alarm! A few days later a waning crescent moon passes both of the planets.
Moon Phases – 1st Qtr: 4 Aug – Full: 10 Aug – Last Qtr: 17 Aug – New: 25 Aug
Jul 2014 Planetary Skylights
June 2014 Planetary Skylights
May 2014 Planetary Skylights
Apr 2014 Planetary Skylights
Mar 2014 Planetary Skylights
Feb 2014 Planetary Skylights
Jan 2014 Planetary Skylights
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Sep 2013 Skylights
The Glorious Twelfth
When amateur astronomers refer to the ‘glorious 12th’ they are not contemplating shooting grouse, pheasant or any other bird; they are, however, anticipating shooting stars! The ‘shooting stars’ in question are the Perseids, one of the more reliable meteor showers and undoubtedly the most widely observed by the general public given the shower occurs during the warmer summer months and requires only the naked eye. Perseids are so called because they are radiant; the location in the sky from which the meteors appear to emanate lies within the constellation of Perseus.
In some regions of the world the Perseids are also known as ‘The Tears of St Lawrence’, because the feast day of that saint falls on Aug 10th, just two days before the meteor peak. Laurentius, a Christian deacon, was said to have been martyred by being roasted alive on an iron outdoor stove by the Romans in 258 AD. It was in the midst of this torture that Laurentius cried out: ‘I am already roasted on one side and if thou wouldst have me well cooked it is time to turn me on the other.’
by Mark Lawson, Whitby & District Astronomical Society
For more info visit www.whitby-astronomers.com