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Urban Observing – August 2013 August 1, 2013

Posted by aquillam in Astronomy, Urban Observing.
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As August opens, be sure to look for the Delta Aquarid meteor shower. While the peak was July 29 or 30, this shower doesn’t have a well-defined peak, and generally continues to be active for another week or two. In fact, Perseid observers often report seeing a few Delta Aquarids.

Speaking of the Perseids, they should peak this year on August 12, give or take a day.  The best time to look for them should be around 3 – 5 AM between the 10th and 14h. The Moon will be first quarter then, so the early morning skies will be nice and dark. If you find a dark site, you should see 50-100 meteors per hour, or about a meteor a minute. It’s still worth watching in urban skies too, though. The Perseids have a high number of fireballs, which are visible even in some of the worst skies. There may be only a half dozen of these in an hour, but trust me, seeing only one is worth it!

Evening observers should look for Venus low in the west in the first hour after sunset all month. Early in the month it should be almost due west, then moving towards the southwest as the month progresses. Look for a three-day old Moon to pass Venus on the evening of August 9.

Saturn starts the month high in the southeast at sunset. Look for it low in the east-southeast at the month’s end, just after sunset. A wide crescent Moon passes Saturn between the 12th and 13th.

The sky between the east and south-east on August 20, with Neptune and Uranus labeled.

Looking ESE at 11 PM on August 20

If you have a telescope and enjoy a challenge, be sure to look for Neptune at the end of the month. It’s in Aquarius all month. The full Moon passes a mere 7° above it on the evening of August 20. At magnitude 7.8, you’ll need a star map or a go-to ‘scope to find it. It will be at opposition on the 26th, so September should actually be the best month this year to observe it.

As long as you have the telescope out, you might as well look for Uranus. It doesn’t rise until around 11 this month, but if you have dark skies it’s actually a naked eye object. It’s a magnitude 5.8, and rises almost due east all month.

Jupiter, Mars, the crescent Moon, and Mercury in Gemini and Cancer on August 4 at 6 AM

August 4, 6 AM, looking east

Early risers get a shot at Mercury as the month begins. You can also get a look at Mars and Jupiter all month. Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and a waning crescent Moon line up together in the east-northeast on the mornings of August 2 – 4, though on the 4th, you’ll need binoculars for the Moon.

Mars, Jupiter and the Moon make another nice group along with Castor & Pollux on August 30 – Sept 1.

The sky in the east on Sept 1, with Jupiter, the Moon, Mars, and the Beehive cluster highlighted.

Looking east at 6 AM on Sept 1.

There a several nice double stars for late summer and a small telescope. Albireo is a favorite around U-M. Something about the stars being Maize and Blue or something…

Nearby is Epsilon Lyrae, the double-double (labeleod Epsilon2a Lyrae in the map below). This is a good test of your telescope’s resolution. A small ‘scope will resolve the star as a visual double. A good ‘scope will resolve each of those stars as a binary.

Among the unique star clusters of summer is Brocchi’s cluster, or the coathanger. It’s a great binocular object. Start by focusing on Vega, then scan toward Altair. It’s about halfway between the two stars, and just a bit west. It’s also fairly unmistakable: it looks exactly like a wooden coat-hanger!

The stars overhead on August 17 at 10 PM. Vega, Altair, Epsilon Lyrae, Albireo, and Broccih's cluster are labeled.

August 17, 10 PM, facing south and looking overhead.

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