What's Up - August 2016
How to spot Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, as well as the and the annual Perseid meteor shower.
What's Up for August? See five planets after sunset and the annual Perseid Meteor Shower.
Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
In case you missed the January/February five-planet lineup in the dawn sky, you might have better luck this month. From August 4th through the 7th spot Venus, Mercury and Jupiter-and the moon-low on the western horizon about 45 minutes after sunset. On the 20th, the three planets make a pretty triangle five to ten degrees above the horizon.
Look in the south-southwest sky for a second planetary dance. Mars and Saturn are high and easy to see and are joined by the moon on August 11th.
But wait, there are more planets, dwarf planets and an asteroid visible this month! Uranus and Neptune and dwarf planet Ceres are visible before dawn in the southern sky. You may see Uranus through binoculars but Neptune and Ceres require a telescope. Asteroid Pallas is visible high in the southern sky at the same time. Dwarf planet Pluto is still visible through a telescope after sunset in the southern sky.
The constellation Perseus is visible in the northern sky soon after sunset. And the famous and reliably active Perseid meteor shower peaks in the morning hours of August 12th. The moon, which paired up so nicely with Mars and Saturn on the 11th, is bright enough to blot out some of the meteors, but-lucky for you-it sets about 1 a.m. on the morning of the 12th, just at the peak time for the best Perseid viewing. Though you'll see the most meteors after moonset on Friday morning August 12th, the days on either side of the peak have elevated rates too, and even a week before and after the 12th you'll see some Perseids.
While waiting for the moon to set, and Perseus to climb higher in the sky, aim your binoculars at some of the beautiful nearby objects from within our Milky Way and beyond. The Milky Way's Perseus Double Cluster and the pretty globular clusters of Cassiopeia can all be spotted with the unaided eye. The Triangulum and Andromeda galaxies can also be spotted with the unaided eye, but binoculars and telescopes reveal more detail.
Catch up on current planetary missions and space telescopes studying our Milky Way and all of NASA's other missions at http://www.nasa.gov.
That's all for this month, I'm Jane Houston Jones.