This Week’s Stargazing Suggestions
The first week of August comes with new astronomical events! Read on to learn more about the celestial phenomena that are worth to gaze at on August 4 — August 9, 2020.
Two meteor showers already active
The bright Moon will put a damper on the two meteor showers that are under way — but you’re still likely to spot a few “shooting stars” on any clear night. Last week’s Southern Delta Aquariids meteor shower, caused by the Earth passing through a cloud of tiny particles dropped by a periodic Comet 96P/Machholtz, will taper off until August 23. The meteors will appear to travel away from the shower’s radiant, in Aquarius, which sits low in the southeastern sky during evening.
The spectacular Perseids Meteor Shower, which is produced from debris dropped by Comet Swift-Tuttle, will be ramping up this week. At its peak next Tuesday, August 11, we could see up to 100 meteors per hour. The Perseids will appear to be travelling away from the constellation of Perseus, which sits low in the northeastern sky in evening.
The full Moon reigns supreme
The Moon will dominate evening skies around the world for the first part of this week. On Monday, at 15:59 GMT (or 11:59 AM EDT), the Moon officially reached its full phase. The August full Moon, colloquially called the Sturgeon Moon, Black Cherries Moon, and Green Corn Moon, always shines among or near the stars of Aquarius or Capricornus.
After Monday, the Moon will wane in phase and rise later. It will traverse the dim stars of Aquarius from Tuesday to Thursday. On Friday and Saturday night, the Moon will skim through the top of Cetus.
When the waning Moon rises in the east shortly before midnight on Saturday, August 8, it will be positioned to the lower right of bright, reddish Mars. The Moon and Mars, which will fit nicely together in the field of binoculars, will cross the night sky together.
Mars and Ceres visible this week
Excitement is already building for Mars, which will put on a great sky show this autumn! This week, the Red Planet will be rising in the east at about 11:30 PM local time. It’s just to the right of the V-shaped, faint constellation of Pisces, and above Cetus. Mars will be visible as a prominent, reddish dot in the lower part of the sky until dawn.
You’ll also have an easier time seeing the dwarf planet (formerly asteroid) Ceres. On the nights surrounding Wednesday, the magnitude 8 object will pass by the medium-bright star c2 Aquarii or 88 Aquarii, which marks the western foot of Aquarius. The star and Ceres will fit into the field of view of a backyard telescope at medium magnification from now until next Saturday — with Ceres moving steadily to the right compared to that star.
All the planets and stars we’ve mentioned are easy to find with Star Walk 2, even if you don’t know much about astronomy.
Keep looking up, and enjoy the sky when you do!