By Duncan Lunan
The Moon will be New on August 1st and 30th, Full on August 15th, and on the night of 23rd/24th August, it will rise about 1 a.m. as it begins to pass across the Hyades Open Cluster in Taurus.
On 9th August the planet Mercury will be at greatest elongation from the Sun, low in the morning sky between 5 and 6 a.m., easiest to see about the middle of the month, and it will be passed by the New Moon on the 30th after it has disappeared from view. At that point the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus and Mars will all be in the constellation Leo, but there will be nothing to see.
Venus and Mars are not visible this month. Venus is at superior conjunction, on the far side of the Sun, on August 14th. Mars is near the New Moon on the 1st, but neither will be visible.
Jupiter in Ophiucus sets about midnight, and reaches an apparent ‘stationary point’ on the 11th, after which it will begin to move eastward again against the stars, now that the Earth is pulling ahead of it. Jupiter appears near the Moon on the 9th.
Saturn in Sagittarius is now higher in the sky than Jupiter, well to the left above the ‘Teapot’ asterism in Sagittarius, and sets about 2.30 a.m., still moving westward after being passed by the Earth last month. Saturn is near the Moon on the 12th., and will pass behind it as seen from East Australia and New Zealand.
Uranus in Aries rises about 10.30 p.m. and it comes to a stationary point on August 12th, then moving westward as it’s overtaken by the Earth before opposition in October.
Neptune in Aquarius is in the sky all night long, moving westward towards opposition in September, near the Moon on the 17th.
Pluto is following a similar loop to Jupiter’s, Saturn’s, Uranus’s and Neptune’s, to the left of the ‘Teapot’ in Sagittarius, following its opposition to the Earth on July 14th. Pluto is currently moving westward after being passed by the Earth, and reverses its apparent course on October 3rd. Pluto is passed by the Moon on August 12th, and will be occulted by it, seen from central Africa, possibly yielding useful data after the 2015 New Horizons flyby.
The annual Perseid meteor shower from Comet Swift-Tuttle, the Great Comet of 1862, will peak on the night of 12/13th August, but will be spoiled by moonlight this year.
At the Astronomers of the Future Club meeting on Thursday August 29th the guest speaker will be Dr. Gerry Nordley, space scientist, amateur astronomer and science fiction writer, talking about the wide-ranging scientific background of his story ‘Empress of Starlight’, published in Analog magazine, Nov/Dec 2018. The meeting will be from 19:15 to 21:00 hrs at the RSAS Barassie Works Club, 4 Shore Road, Troon, KA10 6AG. For more details, contact Alan Martin on 07947 331632.
Duncan Lunan’s new book “From the Moon to the Stars”, a collection of space travel stories old and new relating to the Moon and Project Apollo, is now available from the publishers at https://othersidebooks.wordpress.com, as well as on Amazon or through booksellers; details of that and his other books are on Duncan’s website, www.duncanlunan.com