Urban Observing August 2012 July 30, 2012Posted by aquillam in Astronomy.
Tags: astronomy, Jupiter, Mars, Moon, observing, Saturn, urban_observing, Venus
August 2012 is pretty special. How special? Well, a month like this only comes along once in a Blue Moon!
A Blue Moon is the second full Moon that occurs in the same month. August starts off with the first Full Moon on the first, at 11:27 local time in Michigan. The Blue Moon occurs on August 31, at 9:58. If you miss this one, the next one will be July of 2015! Too bad the Full Moon isn’t actually very interesting to look at…
If a blue Moon isn’t special enough, how ’bout a Mars lander? Curiosity is set to land on August 5th. Look for a Curiosity landing party near you. Here in Ann Arbor, check the AOSS website, http://aoss.engin.umich.edu/. The built one of the instruments, so they’re especially excited about it. Add to that the there’s a rathe nice grouping of Mars, Saturn and Spica that evening, and August 5th is a very good time to get outside and look for the Red Planet.
Mars and Saturn make a very tight pairing, and form a nice line with Spica, on August 14. They start to drift farther apart again at the end of the month, but the earlier sunset keeps them in the twilight sky well into September. They are joined on August 21 & 22 by a crescent Moon. Look early after sunset with binoculars, especially on the 21, to catch the Moon before it sets.
If you have a small telescope, be sure to check out Saturn. The rings are steeply tilted, so the Cassini division should be visible even through murky city skies, as long as the air is still enough. Also look for the shadow of the rings on the planet.
If you are a morning person, Jupiter makes a lovely target for a small telescope. The month begins with Jupiter in the Hyades, and a close conjunction with Aldebaran. Just below, Venus is easy to spot.
Between August 10 and 14, catch the Pleiades, Hyades, Moon, Jupiter and Venus all in the eastern skies. The dawn of the 15 brings a an old Moon just 8 degrees from Mercury, and the 16th a difficult very old Moon may be visible with binoculars just 6 degrees below Mercury. August 14 – 16 will be your best chance to catch Mercury in the morning.