Culture

The Sky Above You – August 2021

By Duncan Lunan

The Moon will be New on August 8th, and Full on August 22nd.  On the mornings of August 2nd and 3rd the waning crescent will be close to the Pleiades and Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus, grazing the upper part of the Hyades cluster on the 3rd.  The new crescent Moon will be near Mercury and Mars on the evening of the 9th, between Venus and Mars on the 10th, and after passing Jupiter when at its closest to us on the 20th, it will be back with the Pleiades, Hyades and Aldebaran from the 28th to the 30th.

The planet Mercury is at superior conjunction beyond the Sun on August 1st, returning to the evening sky, near Regulus in Leo, setting in the west-northwest about 9 p.m. (BST), but no longer visible from the UK.  The Moon is near Mercury on the 9th.

Venus is low in the west near Spica in Virgo, setting at 9.30 p.m..  Venus is to the right of the Moon on the 9th, and will be closest to it on the 11th.

Mars in Leo sets around 9 p.m., very hard to find in the early evening sky, near the Moon on the 10th, and near Mercury on and around the 19th, though no longer visible from the UK.  Mars will be behind the Sun in October and not visible again until November.  On Mars, NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter continues scouting ahead of the Perseverance rover in Jezero Crater, while China’s Zhurong rover is exploring a plain in Utopia, and the Curiosity rover continues its slow ascent of the central peak in Gale crater. 

Jupiter in Aquarius is visible all night long, and comes to opposition, at its closest to us at midnight GMT, on August 20th.  NASA’s Juno probe continues its close exploration of the planet.  The Moon is near Jupiter on August 21st.  Jupiter’s largest moon, Ganymede, will pass in front of the smaller but brighter icy moon Europa between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. on the night of 1st/2nd August, and the volcanic moon Io will cross the face of Jupiter several times during the month – for details see the August issue of Astronomy Now.

Saturn in mid-Capricornus is also visible all night and is at opposition on August 2nd.  The Moon is near Saturn on August 20th.

Uranus in Aries rises at 11 p.m. by the end of the month, beginning to move westward on the 20th as it’s overtaken by the Earth.  Uranus is near the Moon on the 1st and the 28h.

Neptune rises in Aquarius at 9 p.m., near the Moon on the 24th, and will be at opposition in September.

The Perseid meteor shower from Comet Swift-Tuttle peaks on the night of 12th/13th August, more frequent after 1 a.m., and will be free of interference by moonlight, because the Moon sets before 10.30 p.m..  Comet Swift-Tuttle was the Great Comet of 1862 and poses a significant impact threat to Earth in the future.  There were fears that it might hit us in 1982, and although the orbital period was determined more accurately when it did come back in 1992, that began the chain of events which led to my book Incoming Asteroid!, about which I shall be talking online to the British Interplanetary Society on August 11th at 7 p.m..  

Incoming Asteroid!  What Could We Do About It? by Duncan Lunan was published by Springer in 2013 and is available through Amazon or through bookshops, in print or as an ebook from the publishers.  For details and for his other books see Duncan’s website, www.duncanlunan.com.

You may also like our Beginners Astronomy Articles written by Duncan Lunan: Beginners Astronomy: Mars 3 – The Moons of Mars

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