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]
The planet Saturn formed a cosmic triangle with the star Spica in Virgo and the Waning Gibbous Moon last night, 7 April 2012.
This image is composed of two images that have been overlapped to create a composite: one underexposed image of the moon to show the lunar features, and one overexposed to make Saturn and Spica more visible. (Sorry for the bad editing. I still lack skills in using Adobe Photoshop).
The month of May will show up the finest planetary conjunctions of the year. Naked-eye planets line-up in the eastern horizon before sunrise. On May 1, 9, 13, and 30 at 5:00 AM, Mars, Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, Uranus and Neptune will be found lining-up above the eastern horizon as shown in Figures 2, 3, 4, and 5 respectively. Uranus and Neptune will be needing a star map and a binocular or a modest-sized telescope for its proper viewing. The planets will lie among the background stars of the constellation Pisces, the Fish, except for Neptune, which will be found at the constellation of Aquarius, the Water-Bearer.
Saturn will be visible in the evening sky throughout the month. The Ringed planet will be located among the background stars of the constellation Virgo, the Virgin.
|1||Mars Jupiter at minimum separation||dawn|
|2||Jupiter 6° south of the Moon||03:00 AM|
|3||New Moon||04:50 PM|
|5||The 3% thin crescent Moon will lie in between the star groups Hyades and Pleiades in the constellation Taurus in the west.||dusk|
|7||Mercury at greatest western elongation||dawn|
|7||Eta Aquarids : Active from Apr 19 to May 28 — ZHR 70|
|8||Venus Mercury at minimum separation||dawn|
|11||First Quarter Moon||04:35 AM|
|11||Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter Conjunction – The three planets will form a 2-degree long vertical line in the early morning sky. The planet Mars will also be visible nearby. Look to the east near sunrise.||dawn|
|11||Mercury Jupiter at minimum separation||dawn|
|12||Venus Jupiter at minimum separation||dawn|
|14||Saturn 8° north of the Moon||11:00 PM|
|17||Full Moon (called Full Flower Moon)||07:10 PM|
|18-26||Mercury Venus Mars conjunction||dawn|
|18||Mercury Venus at minimum separation||dawn|
|22||Jupiter 8° below the Moon||dawn|
|25||Last Quarter Moon||02:50PM|
|31||Mars 4° South of the Moon||dawn|
Clear skies! 🙂
- PAGASA Astronomical Diary
- Philippine Celestial Events for 2011 by PAS
- 2011 Astronomy Calendar – SeaSky.org
This image was taken during UP Astronomical Society‘s free public viewing of the largest full moon at the UP Diliman Sunken Garden.
Thanks to Kuya Anthony Urbano of EtenyWorks for letting us take pictures through his 6″ NERT!
The Moon was ~14% brighter and bigger at the time of this event. Thin clouds blanketed the lunar disk during this night but we were still lucky to catch a glimpse of this celestial beauty.We even saw a 22 degree halo and a colorful lunar corona circling the Moon at the same time.
Saturn was also there within the halo and there were contrails, too left by a passing aircraft.
Thanks to everyone who dropped by. ‘Til next time 🙂 Ad astra per aspera!
“The sky is the ultimate art gallery just above us.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
[Some photos were grabbed from Nico Mendoza and Julee Olave 🙂 Used with their permissions]
Last Jan. 25, Saturn, Spica and the Moon formed a beautiful triangular celestial grouping. During the following days, early risers can watch the waning crescent Moon pass bright Venus, with Antares and Scorpius looking on. Check southeastern sky a few hours before sunrise.
Location of the Moon in the predawn sky for the next few days:
Jan. 29 — Moon is near the red star Antares in the constellation Scorpius
Jan. 30 — Venus and Crescent Moon are almost 5 degrees apart
Jan. 31 — Moon will be located just above the “Teapot” asterism in Sagittarius
Feb. 1 — Moon and Mercury will be less than 10 degrees from each other
This is a good opportunity to spot these celestial objects because of their proximity with one another and because of their perfect location within the prominent constellations. Clear skies! 🙂
Reference: Stellarium Planetarium Software
The final mornings of 2010 (during Dec. 30 and 31) will feature the waning crescent moon with the planets Mercury, Venus and Saturn in the eastern sky before sunrise.
Depending on where you live worldwide, Venus and the moon will rise above the eastern horizon some 3 to 4 hours before sunrise, to light up the wee morning hours until daybreak. For Philippine observers, the screenshot from Stellarium above shows that the Moon – Venus separation is ~20 degrees on December 30, 2010. During this time, the moon will also be ~20 degrees below Saturn. The bright stars Spica in Virgo and Arcturus in Bootes could also be found within this celestial grouping.
Venus is very bright and easy to find. If you look at Venus with a telescope before dawn, you’ll see this planet shining as a wide waxing crescent.
By December 31, the moon and Venus will shine nearly side by side with only 10 degrees of angular separation. Also on this date, Mercury which was in evening dusk during early December will now be in the predawn sky, closer to the horizon. In the screenshot above, it was ~8 degrees above the horizon and ~25 degrees away from Venus. December 2010 provides you with the unique opportunity to catch Mercury in both the evening and morning sky in a single month. Using binoculars will help you see this tiny planet.
Clear skies to all! 🙂
Note: The general rule amateur astronomers use is that the width of your fist from top to bottom held at arm’s length equals about 10 degrees. Read more about this here.
For Philippine sky gazers, the planets Venus and Neptune will make their greatest appearance for this year on the evening of August 20 😀
The brightest planet in the solar system, Venus will appear especially prominent because it will climb to its highest point in the evening sky upon reaching its greatest elongation. It will lie 47° from the Sun, its maximum distance for this appearance.
Also on this night, the planet Mars will lie just 2° above Venus. (That’s approximately the width of one finger when held at arm’s length.) Using binoculars will help bring it to view because it glows less than 1 percent as Venus. The planet Saturn lurks approximately 10° to Venus’ right and the star Spica in the constellation Virgo sits 10° to Venus’ left. Both shine a little brighter than Mars but fall far short of dazzling Venus.
Although naked eyes and binoculars offer the best views of the evening scene, anyone with a small telescope will get a thrill from targeting Venus. At greatest elongation, Venus looks like a miniature version of a First Quarter Moon, with one half in sunlight and the other in darkness.
On the other hand, the planet Neptune will be in opposition (opposite the sun in the sky and closest to Earth) and will be highest in the sky at local midnight. This opposition is special because Neptune will be returning close to the spot where it was discovered in 1846, marking its first complete trip around the sun since its discovery.
To find Neptune, look for the large but faint triangle of Capricornus, to the left of Sagittarius and the Milky Way around 1 a.m. this week. The two stars at the left end of the triangle point the way to Neptune, just a little bit short of and above the star Iota in the neighboring constellation Aquarius.
In a small telescope or even binoculars, Neptune will look just like a star; what gives it away is its distinctive blue-green color.
Happy planet hopping! 😀
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 🙂
A lot of Filipino amateur astronomers including me 😀 are excited for this month’s sky display.
For Philippine observers, the annual Perseids Meteor Shower which often shows 50 meteors per hour will be observed with its peak on the late night of August 12-13. The Perseids appear to radiate out from the constellation Perseus, which is located in the eastern horizon during August.
2010 is a great year for the Perseids. This year, the slender waxing crescent moon will set at early evening, leaving a dark sky for this year’s Perseid show.
The Perseids tend to strengthen in number as late night deepens into midnight, and typically produce the most meteors in the wee hours before dawn. These meteors are often bright and frequently leave persistent trains. The Perseid Meteor Shower is famous for its Earthgrazers –meteors that approach from the horizon and skim the atmosphere overhead like a stone skipping the surface of a pond. Earthgrazers are long, slow and colorful; they are among the most beautiful of meteors.
The source of the shower is Comet Swift-Tuttle. Although the comet is nowhere near Earth, the comet’s tail does intersect Earth’s orbit. We glide through it every year in August. Tiny bits of comet dust hit Earth’s atmosphere traveling 132,000 mph. At that speed, even a smidgen of dust makes a vivid streak of light–a meteor–when it disintegrates.
Friday the 13th will never be unlucky for sky observers on this night. Those who plan to watch the Perseids will also have the chance to see a beautiful planetary grouping before the radiant rise in the East.
Coincidentally, on August 13 at around 7pm the crescent Moon will join the groupings of Mars, Venus, Saturn and Mercury in the western horizon.
Happy observing and Clear Skies to all!