Culture

The Sky Above You – August 2020

By Duncan Lunan

The Moon was Full on August 3rd, and it will be New on August 19th.  This month there are spectacular encounters of the Moon with Mercury, Venus and prominent stars – see below – and over the course of the night all the planets are visible, though telescopes are needed for Uranus and Neptune.    

In early August the planet Mercury was below Castor and Pollux in Gemini, rising about 4.20 a.m., and on August 9th the planet passed in front of the Open Cluster Praesepe  (the Beehive)  in Cancer.  Mercury passes superior conjunction on the far side of the Sun on August 17th and is near the New Moon on the 19th, when neither will be visible.  

Venus is in the morning sky, rising about 2 a.m., to the left of the Moon as it passes below the Hyades and Pleiades on August 13th to 16th, when Venus rises at greatest elongation from the Sun.  By the end of August Venus is below Castor and Polluxin Gemini.

In early August Mars rose in Pisces around 11.30 p.m., near the Moon on August 8th, and it rises by 9.30 p.m. at the end of the month.     

Jupiter in Sagittarius sets about 3 a.m. in August.  The Moon was near Jupiter on August 1st and will be again on the 28th.

Saturn is close to Jupiter throughout this quarter.  The Moon was near Saturn on August 2nd, will be again on August 28-29th.

Uranus in Aries rises about 11.30 p.m. in August, coming to its apparent ‘stationary point’ on the 15th, as the Earth begins to overtake it, and the Moon was nearby on the 11th.   

Neptune in Aquarius rises about 10 p.m. in August, and was near the Moon on the 7th.  

The Perseid meteors from Comet Swift-Tuttle peaked on the nights of 11th to 13th August, but were spoiled by moonlight after the third quarter Moon  (half full, waning)  rose before midnight at the start, and soon after midnight on the 13th.   I was on ‘Good Morning Scotland’ on the BBC beforehand, talking about them, but in the end I didn’t see any myself!

Duncan Lunan’s latest book “From the Moon to the Stars”, a collection of space travel stories old and new relating to the Moon and Project Apollo, illustrated by Sydney Jordan, 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.

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