BACKYARD STARGAZER: August nights are full of sights

By Francis Parnell

It’s August, and there are a number of nice celestial pairings to observe with naked eyes, and especially with binoculars.
At dusk on the 1st, the waxing gibbous Moon, Jupiter, and Saturn formed a triangle in the southeastern sky. Bright Jupiter was less than 3 degrees upper right of the Moon with Saturn to the left.
On the 2nd at dusk, the Moon had moved along its orbit and formed a graceful arc, with Saturn in the middle and Jupiter to the right.
One hour before sunrise on the 9th, try to catch a dramatic conjunction as the waning gibbous Moon passes slightly more than 1 degree away from dazzling red Mars.
On the night of the 11th and early morning of the 12th, the Perseid Meteor Shower peaks with an average of 90 meteors per hour under dark skies. This year the last quarter Moon rises at midnight and will wash out all but the brightest meteors, so it’s best to observe before midnight on the 11th.
One hour before sunrise on the 15th, look east to spot a slender lunar crescent 3 degrees upper left of dazzling Venus.
About 45 minutes after sunset on the 22nd, look west-southwest to find the waxing crescent Moon about 7 degrees above Spica, the brightest star in Virgo.
Looking south-southeast after sunset on the 28th, for the second time this month bright Jupiter is only 2 degrees above the waxing gibbous Moon. Saturn is to the left.
And after sunset on the 29th, the Moon is about 7 degrees lower left of yellow Saturn for a second visit this month. The Moon, Saturn and Jupiter once again form a neat celestial arc.
The stars belong to everyone, so “Keep looking up!”

Author: Rachel Howell

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