Star Calendar – August 2016

Star Calendar

August 2016

Star Calendar Planets:

Moon passes just out of reach of Earth’s sizable shadow on the 18th as it sets at dawn. It is very close to being, or not being, a technical penumbral encounter – but nothing observable will occur. Some eclipse tables will list this event, others will not. Both are correct! An annular solar eclipse will cross Africa and Madagascar on September 1st when the Moon’s shadow doesn’t quite reach the Earth.

Mercury makes its widest excursion from the Sun this month but does so doubly disadvantaged from our point of view. Firstly the ecliptic is dropping dramatically to the left of the Sun (aka the coming decent into fall) and secondly Mercury is passing rather south of the ecliptic line. At greatest elongation on the 27th, Jupiter and Venus have a lesser elongation but stand higher than Mercury in the evening – as they are north of the ecliptic just now.

Venus sets at 9:PM on the 1st and then about one minute earlier each day thereafter – but the Sun sets even earlier, gaining about a minute and 21 seconds each day – so Venus is a little higher each evening twilight relative to sunset but is lower each evening relative to the clock. During this month she will pass Regulus, Jupiter and Mercury.

Sun stands in the middle of Cancer as the month begins, crosses into astronomical Leo on the 9th and reaches Regulus on the 21st. If you recall where Jupiter stood (beneath the belly of Leo) at the extremity of his last loop (stationary on May 9), the Sun will reach that spot on September 5th.

Mars will make a striking equilateral triangle with Saturn and Antares, in the south on the 11th, but the Moon standing directly above him will make a distracting lozenge – or possibly blot out Antares. So perhaps on any other day it is a good time to contrast Mars with Antares as they approach one another. They are conjunct on the 23rd/24th.

Jupiter is in direct motion, meaning that he appears further leftwards each day against the stars. The Sun and Moon epitomize this motion and the planets execute variations and contrasts to this theme. Venus is moving more quickly than the Sun, Jupiter more slowly – and Venus will catch up on the 27th for a very close and very bright conjunction. That would be a night to find a 10 to 30 power telescope with either not too large an aperture or fitted with some filters, for Venus will be so close that she’ll mingle amongst the Moons of Jupiter. The pair will be low and due West at 8:15 PM at the very beginning of Nautical Twilight conditions. Find a good spot ahead of time.

Saturn is within the meridia of Scorpius, (though astronomically in Ophiucus) and stands above (north of) Antares. Mars will cut between the two on the 23rd/24th.

Perseid meteors statistically peak mid-month, but the gibbous Moon presents a liability then. There have been known to be earlier outbursts however, so gazing Perseus/Cassiopeia-wards earlier in the month may reward. The Aurigids peak in better conditions at the end of the month – but are above the horizon in the pre-dawn hours – raying from above Orion’s shoulder.

Star Calendar Days:

  1      Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 5:52/20:12 (14h20m daylight)

  2      New Moon

  4      Mercury to right of young Moon, 8:45PM in West

          Also, lower to right, Venus

  5      Venus and Regulus conjunct in evening, latter probably washed out by sunset

  6      Moon just beneath Jupiter, setting by 9:30 PM in West

11      Moon, Mars, Antares, Saturn make a lozenge in SSW at 9:PM

12      Perseids peak – by statistics of the past

13      Saturn stationary to direct motion

16      Mercury at largest (but very low) angle from Sun for this appearance, 27 degrees

18      Full Red Moon (5:27 AM) sets in slight penumbral eclipse in early morning

23-25 Mars passes between Saturn and Antares, SSW in evening

27      Venus and Jupiter pass very close in West as Sun sets – should be quite bright

30      Mercury stationary to retrograde

31      Sunrise/sunset in Spring Valley at 6:22/19:30 (13h8m daylight)

Star Calendar – August 2015

Star Calendar

August 2015

Star Calendar Planets:

Moon will now be Full near the ends of the months for a while. This month will have two occasions of perigee occurring within 24 hours of syzygy; look for Spring Tide inundations on the 1st and 30th. New Moon is timed for ideal Perseid meteor viewing this year. I plan to look for them (from Breezy Hill, Springfield, VT) during the 80th “Stellafane” convention. RIP Carl Breuning (I’ll never forget viewing Mars with the 12” Porter Turret; sharp and clear through solid cloud-cover – this surprised us both!).

Mercury slips into the evening sky as Venus departs. On the 6th and 7th, in the glare of evening twilight, there is a close tussle with Jupiter and Regulus but we may hope for a better view on the 16th, to the right of a standing crescent Moon.

Venus takes a bow and swiftly crosses the nearside of the Sun this month. Look for a liaison with Mars, beginning as the Full Moon sets on the morning of the 29th with RA conjunction, but more pleasing to the eye in the first week of September.

Sun is halfway from solstice to equinox on the 1st; “Lammas” (Loaf-Mass) is a cross-quarter harvest festival.

Mars will creep into view for early risers during the middle of this month. Diehards might look to the left of the crescent Moon at 4-4:15 AM on the 13th. Mars will then appear in line with and below Gemini’s Pollux and Castor.

Jupiter takes a passage behind the Sun, conjunct on the 26th.

Saturn finishes a long retrograde period on the 2nd and is at quadrature (90 degrees from Sun) on the 21st. Saturn is now strictly an “evening star” as it sets before midnight and appears in the evening beyond culmination.

Pluto: the latest astronomical centerfold, and an intriguing one it is. The space-camera is traveling at truly meteoric speed. Consider: my 33-yr-old car has traveled about 400,000 miles, or just over 2 light-seconds (“to the Moon” – and nearly back); Pluto (near the Teapot) is about 5½ light-hours away, or 9,900 times that distance. Continue reading