Here’s what you can expect to see in the skies this month.
Aug. 1: A bright past-full moon rises in the southeast in Aquarius by midevening. Brilliant Venus glows in the west. The Queen of the Night descends about 20 degrees upper left of the setting sun that illuminates a 7 percent sunlit crescent on her cloud covered surface. Ruddy Arcturus, Herdsman, twinkles in the west. The Big Dipper swings low in the northwest. Leo, Lion, stalks the west-northwestern horizon. Fading Jupiter lies near the star Regulus in Leo. Spica, in Virgo, follows Corvus, Crow onto the western horizon.
Silver Saturn, encircled in icy rings, leads huge Scorpius across the south. Fiery Antares (a red supergiant) is the heart beating in the Scorpion's torso. Antares is hundreds of times larger than our sun. The Sagittarian Teapot closely follows Scorpius. Aim binoculars to a myriad of nebulae and clusters across the south in the dense center of our Milky Way Galaxy. Capricornus, Sea Goat, plods across the southeast. Dim blue Neptune lies in Aquarius in the southeast. Blue-green Uranus rises in the southeast in Pisces, Fish. Cetus, Whale, swims below Uranus.
Aug. 6: Last Quarter Moon occurs at 10:03 p.m. By nightfall, Mercury appears on the west-northwestern horizon and snuggles with Jupiter and Regulus. Great view with binoculars.
Aug. 12-13: Perseid Meteor Shower might begin late evening in a moonless sky until the predawn of the 13th. Radiating from the constellation Perseus, glittering debris from long-gone Comet Swift-Tuttle might total 50-80 Perseids per hour viewed from a safe, open area dark sky site by 4 a.m. when Perseus is overhead.
During the year, Earth cruises through comet dust tails hanging in space. Tiny dust fragments or chunks of iron rocks crash into our atmosphere at thousands of miles per second and heat into colorful celestial fireworks. Fireballs, brighter than Venus, might occur. A thundering bolide meteor breaks the sound barrier. A lounge chair and hot beverage is all that is needed at home.
Aug. 16: At dusk, a young moon glows briefly 6 degrees from Mercury on the west-northwestern horizon.
Aug. 22: First Quarter Moon occurs at 3:31 p.m. Tonight the moon leads Scorpius by the nose. Saturn lies 4 degrees lower right of the moon.
Aug. 29: The Fruit Moon is full at 2:35 p.m. Tonight, the almost-Supermoon floats 3 degrees above Neptune.
Aug. 30: Neptune lies opposite the sun. The outer planet rises in the southeast at sunset and sets in the west at dawn.
Westbound Hercules leads bright Vega, in Lyra the Harp, overhead with the vast Summer Triangle. Cygnus, Swan, soars within the Triangle. Deneb, the northern point star is the tail feather. Altair, in Aquila the Eagle, is the southern point star in the Triangle. Pegasus, Winged Horse, lifts above the eastern horizon. Late evening, the Royal Family arrives in the northeast.
Aug. 2: At dawn, the Gemini Twins rise in the east-northeast. Dim Mars climbs 5 degrees below the Twins.
The Seven Sisters (Pleiades) star cluster lead Taurus, Bull, higher in the east. Ruddy Aldebaran (Bull’s red eye) winks from the V-shaped Hyades cluster (Bull’s face). The Beehive star cluster, in Cancer the Crab, appears on the horizon below Mars. Orion, Hunter, peers over the eastern horizon.
Aug. 5: By 6 a.m., the waning moon floats 1 degree below Uranus in the south.
Aug. 8: Before 6 a.m., the waning crescent moon floats between two star clusters in the east: the Pleiades above and the Hyades below the moon. Orion climbs higher in the east.
Aug. 12: At dawn, the old crescent moon forms a triangle with Mars (lower left) and Procyon, Little Dog (lower right), near the eastern horizon.
Aug. 13: The Perseid Meteors will be most intense before dawn. Some Perseids will be visible for a few nights.
Aug. 14: Before dawn, brilliant Sirius sparkles low in the southeast. Sirius is one of our closest stars visible in the northern hemisphere. It is the blue eye in Orion’s Big Dog constellation and signals the Dog Days of summer.
Aug. 20: By 6 a.m., ruddy Mars crosses the dim Beehive star cluster near the east-northeastern horizon. Great view with binoculars and cameras.
Aug. 24: About 6:30 a.m., brilliant Venus, Morning Star, will be visible low in the east.
Aug. 31: At dawn, Mars and Venus move to 9 degrees apart low in the east.
Hercules leads Vega and the Summer Triangle into the northwest. Pegasus drifts overhead. The Royal Family reigns in the north: King Cepheus, Queen Cassiopeia, daughter Andromeda and Perseus, Hero.
Fomalhaut twinkles in the southwest.