This month, weather conditions permitting, skywatchers will be treated to the Perseid meteor shower, several planet conjunctions, a “blue moon” and a relatively rare lunar occultation of Jupiter (visible for some parts of the globe).
August 7-14: Spica, Saturn and Mars at Dusk
The planets Saturn and Mars and the star Spica are close together in the first half of the month, low above the western horizon at dusk. They will form a triangle on the 7th an hour after sunset. Saturn will be the top of the triangle, while Mars will be on the lower right corner. Each side of the triangle is about 5 degrees. On the 14th, they will form an almost straight line: Saturn topmost with Mars lying between Saturn and Spica.
August 12: Occultation of Jupiter by the Moon
For Philippine observers, the waning crescent Moon will pass in front of Jupiter and its moons during a relatively rare event called occultation on the morning of August 12. In astronomy, an occultation occurs when one object is hidden by another larger object that passes between it and the observer. Prospects and timings for the event vary with location.
The event takes place while Jupiter and the Moon are low in the sky during the wee hours of the morning.
|2012 Aug 12 02:43||Occultation disappearance of Jupiter (Mag -2.2)|
|2012 Aug 12 03:16||Occultation reappearance of Io (Mag 5.5)|
|2012 Aug 12 03:17||Occultation reappearance of Jupiter (Mag -2.2)|
|2012 Aug 12 03:18||Occultation reappearance of Europa (Mag 5.7)|
|2012 Aug 12 03:20||Occultation reappearance of Callisto (Mag 6.1)|
|2012 Aug 12 03:32||Occultation reappearance of Ganymede (Mag 5.0)|
August 11, 12: Perseid Meteor Shower
The Perseids is one of the best annual meteor showers.
The best time to watch for Perseids is between midnight and dawn. This is when the shower’s radiant located between the constellations Cassiopeia and Perseus, lies highest in the northeast sky.
By the 12th, the moon will only be 25% illuminated and not nearly as intense as when near its full phase. This will allow fainter meteors to be seen as long as the moon lies outside your field of view.
Tip: Find a safe dark location with clear skies in the early morning hours in order to see the shower. This year, the shower peaks on a weekend so it’s more convenient to stay up late.
August 14: A line of planets along with a thin, waning, crescent Moon before dawn
Before dawn on the morning of the 14th August the planets Mercury, Venus and Jupiter and the Moon will line up in the eastern sky. Look for A very thin crescent Moon to the upper right of Mercury an hour before sunrise in the northeast. Venus is to the upper right of the Moon, and a few degrees above them is Jupiter.
August 22: Waxing Crescent Moon joins Saturn, Mars and Spica
On the evening of the 22nd, a waxing crescent Moon, Mars, and Saturn will all lie within a circle just 6° in diameter.
August 31: Blue Moon (second full moon of August)
On the 31st, we will be able to witness a Blue Moon, the term given to the second full Moon in a calendar month. But don’t expect it to be blue — the term has nothing to do with the color of the moon. [Origin of the term blue moon]
Despite the 50% chance of a thunderstorm and a full moon, I and my UP AstroSoc friends braved our way to Bataan last August to observe this year’s Perseid Meteor Shower during its peak event.
We stayed at Stella Maris Beach Resort in Bagac to observe overnight.
The sky was totally overcast when we came. Nevertheless, we were fortunate that the Full Moon was already low in the west when the eastern sky cleared up around 3:00 to 5:00 AM just in time for the Perseids.
We were able to spot a few fireballs zooming across the region near Perseus and around the Winter Hexagon. The highest meteor count that we had was 23.
We also got to observe Jupiter (with its Galilean Moons!) and the planet Mars though a friend’s Dobsonian telescope which we fondly call Lulin.
Here are some images of Jupiter taken through afocal method:
We finished our Perseid viewing at dawn and left the place a couple of hours after to tour around Bataan. Some of the places we visited were the Bagac Friendship Tower, Dunsulan Falls in Pilar, and the Dambana ng Kagitingan (Shrine of Valor) at the summit of Mt. Samat.
Mount Samat was the site of the most vicious battle against the Japanese Imperial Army in 1942 during the Battle of Bataan. The shrine there was built as a symbol of courage and gallantry to all Filipino soldiers who shed their blood in defending our beloved country to foreign invaders. I felt honored to have been able to visit this place and pay respect to my fellow Filipinos who died during the war.
Going at the top of Mount Samat was the best experience ever! It felt like I can almost touch the clouds with my two bare hands when I was up there. I also love the cool gentle breeze and the nice view (you can see the whole town of Bataan and the Manila Bay from there). My friends and I were very excited as we climbed up the stairs going up the cross. It was a bit tiring though.
Overall, I consider this trip as one of the most memorable trips I ever had. Aside from successfully catching the Perseids despite of the bad weather, we were also blessed with a great opportunity to visit some of the historical places in the country and experience nature at its finest. It was truly a sweet escape!
Thanks to Elaine, Kiel, Bea, Josh, Saeed, Ron and Pinyong for being with me in this endeavor.
*All images above courtesy of Bea Banzuela
Many astronomy enthusiasts gathered last Friday, August 13 to observe the peak of the annual Perseids Meteor Shower as well as the beautiful display of planets after sunset.
My astronomy organization here in the Philippines, the UP Astronomical Society (UP AstroSoc), held a public observation for this event at the Sun Deck of PAGASA Astronomical Observatory in the University of the Philippines – Diliman. It was attended by around 30-40 guest who patiently waited for the Perseids despite the partly cloudy sky before midnight. The org’s telescopes were also set up so the attendees could view the planets Venus and Jupiter (with 4 of its moons!) which were visible during that night.
This observation was even featured in a news report of GMA’s Saksi, a local news program. Below is the video containing interviews by some of the attendees:
Note: It was mentioned in the report that the planetary conjunction (planets appear near one another in the sky) is difficult to see without the use of telescopes. This is not true because seeing planetary groupings require a wider field of view (extent of the observable area) of the sky. Telescopes offer more details but have smaller field of view than our eyes.
I and two of my colleagues, Andre Obidos and Bea Banzuela, chose to observe from Marikina City. The skies were also cloudy there but we were still lucky enough to see and capture the ghostlike Moon with the planet Venus an hour after sunset in the west. Mars and Saturn however, were too dim to shine through the clouds.
We waited for the constellation Perseus (where the meteors would seem to radiate from) to rise around midnight but the sky was still full of clouds. We went out again around 3am but we saw nothing except for an overcast night sky with just a few bright stars like Altair, Vega and Deneb and the planet Jupiter which was nearly overhead. Following are some our images which were taken using Canon PowerShot SX 20:
Other members of the organization went to different locations to help facilitate the other public observations of the event.
Below are photos taken by some UP AstroSoc members* during the observations.
Due to the coming of the rainy season here in the Philippines, having a clear night sky this month was almost impossible. Nonetheless, observers were still thankful that the clouds cleared up for even a short while, allowing them to see 4 or more of those beautiful bright streaks of light with the planets.
According to the IMO measurements the 2010 Perseid meteor shower was above normal with a peak activity of over 100 meteors per hour under optimal viewing conditions but not spectacular. In the coming nights the Perseids will still be visible, but with fewer and fewer meteors night by night.
Ana Geronimo (in UP Diliman)
Regyn Avena (in UP Los Ba ños)
Zal Gerente (Seven Suites Hotel in Antipolo)
All photos were used with their permission.
Wondering what to do on this Friday night? Dance with the meteors and the planets.
The University of the Philippines Astronomical Society (UP Astrosoc) invites everyone to its public observation of the spectacular Perseid Meteor Shower and planetary grouping of Mars, Venus, Saturn and Mercury on August 13th (Friday) from 6pm to 6am of the following day at the PAGASA Observatory Sun Deck in the University of the Philippines Campus, Diliman.
Likewise, the UP-Los Banos Astronomical Society (UPLB Astrosoc) will hold an Astronomy Camp entitled “Astra La Vista: The First Encounter” also on the 13th at D.L. Umali Hall in UP Los Banos, Laguna. Aside from observing the Perseids and the planetary grouping, this event will be its launching activity as well.
So don’t forget to mark your calendars on this date, list down your wishes and watch these events from your local areas.
Let’s pray for clear skies