What's Up for August. The best Perseid meteor shower in years! And view all the current and former planets this month!


What's Up for August. The best Perseid meteor shower in years! And view all the current and former planets this month!

Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

August's Perseid meteor shower peaks just after midnight on a moonless mid-August night. It should put on a great show this year. A good number of meteors should be visible near Perseus every night from late July through August 24. However, you'll see fewer meteors before and after the peak. Look towards the familiar constellations Cassiopeia and Perseus in the northeast. They rise soon after sunset, but you'll want to wait til they are higher in the sky to see the most meteors. The best meteor watching hour is 4 a.m. Eastern or 1 a.m. Pacific time on the morning of August 13, when up to 100 meteors per hour may be visible from a dark sky.

There's also a chance to spot all the planets, plus former planets Pluto, Ceres, Vesta, Juno and Pallas this month! But you'll have to observe from dusk to dawn.

Start right after sunset and find Jupiter low on the western horizon. Venus and Mercury will be near Jupiter, but you'll need binoculars and a good, flat western horizon to see them. You can also see Venus before sunrise at the end of the month. The asteroid Juno is also near Mercury, but will require a telescope to see.

Saturn will be easy to see a little higher in the southwestern sky until after midnight.

You'll need a telescope to track down Pluto, but it's not really that difficult. It's in the same area that it was last month, near Sagittarius in the south-southeast sky. It's fun to observe Pluto over two nights and see its movement against the background stars, just as Clyde Tombaugh did when he discovered it in 1930.

Another dwarf planet, Ceres, is not too far away from Pluto. It's also in the constellation Sagittarius. Look low in the southeastern sky. At midnight the asteroid Pallas can be spotted in the constellation Hercules in the western sky.

Uranus and Neptune require a wake-up call! Early in the morning in the eastern sky use binoculars to spot Uranus--the easier of the two to see. Look for Neptune in the southeast sky. Neptune requires a telescope.

Vesta is in the constellation Cetus the whale in the eastern pre-dawn sky.

That just leaves Mars to round out the historical planet tour this month. It's visible an hour before sunrise, but you'll need binoculars to see it. Mars observers, you'll have plenty of time between now and the end of 2016 to view the red planet. Month by month, it rises earlier and looms larger in the eyepiece.

You can learn more about NASA's journey to Mars, New Horizons' flyby of Pluto last month and all of NASA's missions at www.nasa.gov.

That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.

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