The last week of summer is the best time to observe the Moon after dinner, which will dance with gas giant planets at week’s end. Mars is brightening, Mercury is visible after sunset and Venus blazes away before dawn. Read on to learn more about noteworthy astronomical events on August 25–30, 2020.
The Planets of the week
On August 17, speedy little Mercury reached superior solar conjunction, sliding past the Sun on the far side of the solar system. It will become visible again in the western post-sunset sky this week — but the low angle of the evening ecliptic will keep Mercury very close to the horizon for everyone living at mid-northern latitudes. If you view it from near the equator, or in the Southern Hemisphere, Mercury will put on a great show for you in September! If you’re game to look for it, the best time window falls around 8:15 p.m. local time.
The other inner planet, extremely bright Venus, will rise in the east-northeast at about 2:50 a.m. local time this week, and then remain visible until sunrise. Viewed in a backyard telescope, Venus will show a half-illuminated shape. This week, Venus will be traveling east through the stars of Pollux, Gemini’s eastern twin. Enjoy a view of Orion sitting well off to Venus’ right in a dark, pre-dawn sky.
For evening planet-gazers, it’s all about the gas giants! As the sky darkens after sunset, very bright, white Jupiter will pop into view first, low in the southeastern sky — with dimmer, yellowish Saturn positioned to its left.
Reddish Mars is steadily increasing in disk size and brightness recently because the Earth is traveling towards it — until October. This week, the Red Planet will be rising in the east soon after 10 p.m. in your local time zone. Nothing near Mars is as bright, nor as red! This week, it will cross the narrow “V” of modest stars at the bottom of the constellation of Pisces.
This week blue-green Uranus will rise at about 10:30 p.m. local time. Despite its distance, it’s visible with unaided eyes and in binoculars under a dark sky. Look for the magnitude 5.7 planet sitting in southern Aries close to the stars Hamal and Sheratan.
The Moon visits bright stars and gas giants
This will be a fantastic week to enjoy the views of the Moon all around the world. Our natural satellite officially reaches its first quarter phase on Tuesday. At first quarter, the Moon always rises around noon and sets around midnight, so it is also visible in the afternoon daytime sky.
On Tuesday night, the Moon will shine above the bright red star Antares and the three little white stars that mark the scorpion’s claws, Acrab, Dschubba, and Fang. On Wednesday and Thursday night, the gibbous Moon (i.e., more than half-illuminated) will pass through Ophiuchus and land above the Teapot-shaped asterism of Sagittarius. The Moon’s monthly visit with the gas giant planets, Jupiter and Saturn, will begin on Friday night. Follow our news in order not to miss this spectacular event!
Take advantage of the astronomical app Star Walk 2 to determine when the Moon and planets rise and set and where to look for them in the sky above you.
Adapted from Chris Vaughan