BACKYARD STARGAZER: In August, a meteor shower is in the monthly forecast
By Francis Parnell
Welcome to August and the end of Dog Days on the 11th.
Observe the Full Sturgeon Moon rising on the 11th. The Native Americans gave the Moon the name because this large fish of the Great Lakes is most readily caught at this time of year. At midnight the ringed planet Saturn is 4 degrees north of the Moon.
The annual Perseid meteor shower peaks on the night of the 12-13th, with about 90 meteors per hour visible under dark skies. This year, unfortunately, the Moon is less than two days past full and will make viewing all but the brightest meteors very difficult.
On the 14th, Saturn is at Opposition, 823,309,582 miles from Earth. A small telescope at 40 power gives a nice view of Saturn and its ring system.
At moonrise on the 15th, bright Jupiter can be seen about 2 degrees upper right of the waning gibbous Moon.
Early risers on the 19th can observe red Mars 3 degrees south of the last quarter Moon.
Looking south-southwest at dusk on the 27th, spot the elusive Mercury at Greatest Elongation, 27 degrees east of the Sun.
FAST FACT: This month winds up our look at the Zodiac. The Zodiac is 18 degrees wide, and in the center is the Ecliptic, the “apparent” path of the Sun against the background stars as seen from Earth. The reason it’s referred to as the ecliptic is because along this path is where total and partial eclipses of the Sun and Moon occur. And while the ecliptic is the Sun’s apparent path among the stars of the Zodiac, as seen from the Sun it’s Earth’s actual yearly path among the zodiacal stars.
“Keep looking up!”