Wandering through the realms of the cosmos, pondering its huge vastness

Skywatching Highlights: August 2012

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.

View of the western horizon at dusk on August 7 and 14, 2012 as seen from Manila Philippines. Images were screenshots from Stellarium.

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.

Local circumstances:

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)

source: Pyxis Astronomy Educational Services

Jupiter and its largest satellites passing behind Earth’s moon.Image: Stellarium 

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]

A composite image showing a lunar corona appearing around the full moon last last August 2, 2012

Clear skies!


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