After the exciting events in the night sky during July, it’s hard to imagine what could follow up a partial solar eclipse, a lunar eclipse, four planets in conjunction, and a meteor shower! Luckily, August follows up with some regularly exected astronomic events, plus a few highlights to brighten the night.
Read on to learn about the astronomic events in August. You’ll also find information on when and where to look for them in the sky.
August 2: Alpha Capricornids Meteor Shower
Photo credit: Rocky Raybell via Flickr
Unlike July, which started off with relatively few astronomical events, August kicks off quickly and maintains a steady pace of reasons to look skyward all month. This starts with the Alpha Capricornids(⍺-Capricornids) meteor shower, which peaks overnight on August 2nd.
While the ⍺-Capricornids began roughly July 15th and continue through August 10th, the maximum rate of meteors is expected overnight August 2nd-3rd, where you can expect to see as many as five meteors /shooting stars per hour. Look for meteor showers to originate near the constellation of Capricorn (hence their name), which will be just “above” Mars in the night sky. You’ll find Mars easily in the Southern sky, as it will be only a few days after perigee (the closest Mars has been in over a decade).
August 6: Tau Aquarids Meteor Shower
Photo credit: Mike Lewinski via Flickr
A few days later another meteor shower will peak, again visible in the southern sky. The Tau Aquarids (?-Aquarids) will peak at a rate of 8 meteors per hour on the night of August 6th.
Look for meteors to the “lower left” of Mars in the southern sky, originating from the Aquarius constellation. If you’re not super familiar with constellations but spotted a few meteors in the ⍺-Capricornids, these meteors will appear in basically the exact same part of the night sky.
August 11: Partial Solar Eclipse in the Northern Hemisphere
Photo credit: David Paleino via Flickr
For those in the far northern hemisphere (including some top aurora destinations in the winter such as Greenland, Norway, Canada, and Russia), be ready for a partial solar eclipse between 06:40 UTC and 12:38 UTC on August 11th.
This partial solar eclipse will not include totality visible anywhere on earth. Different regions of the globe will have different amounts of partial sun coverage. For example, Mongolia will see a maximum of 36% coverage, China will experience 45% coverage in certain regions, Northern Canada will see a maximum of 60% coverage, and parts of Russia will see as much as 68% coverage. This eclipse will not be visible in the United States or most of Europe.
As this is a partial solar eclipse, proper eye protection must be worn at all times during the eclipse window; there will not be any point where it is safe to look directly at the sun without solar eclipse glasses. Purchase them on Amazon in a 10-pack for $9.99.
August 12: Perseids Meteor Shower
Photo credit: Paul Williams via Flickr
While we saw meteors earlier in the month, even amateur astronomers know: the big show every August is the Perseids meteor shower. In 2018, the Perseids will peak on the night of August 12th-13th.
Visible in the northeastern sky and emanating from the Perseid constellation, you can expect to see as many as 80 meteors per hour during the night of greatest activity. Depending on where you live, you may see fewer as some may occur below the horizon. Either way, look for meteors to appear every 1-2 minutes!
Additionally, the moon will be a one-day old crescent moon, making this Sunday evening an ideal night for stargazing.
August 17: Jupiter Meets the Moon
Photo credit: Glenn Beltz via Flickr
After experiencing one “close encounter” in July, the moon and Jupiter meet again in mid-August. On the night of August 16th, you’ll see the two at their closest approach (again).
Jupiter will move to a maximum closeness of 4°17′ during the late evening for most of the U.S.; when Jupiter and the moon become visible after sunset they will still appear within 5° of one another. Look for Jupiter and the moon in the due southern sky.
If you’re viewing from other parts of the world, you should have a great view of this close encounter in the middle of the night!
August 21: Alpha Cygnids Meteor Shower & Close Approach of the Moon and Saturn
Photo credit: Tucker Hammerstrom via Flickr
Rounding out a month of meteoric activity, August closes with yet another meteor shower. The Alpha Cygnids (⍺-Cygnids) peak on the night of August 21st.
Look for meteors high in the northeastern sky, roughly in the area of the constellations Andromeda and Cassiopeia. Meteors will peak at a rate of about 5 per hour; if you caught the Perseids earlier in the month this may feel anti-climactic!
The same night, look for a second close approach of the moon and Saturn (echoing July again). Visible in the due southern sky, Saturn and the moon will appear within 2°07′ of each other. This means they will potentially be visible within a single telescope view!
Featured photo by Logan Brumm via Flickr