What's Up - August 2019
What can you see this month? In the August sky, look for the "shooting stars" of the annual Perseid meteor shower for some stargazing delights, but be warned — the bright Moon will overwhelm the fainter meteors this year. Plus, the Moon's evening visits to Jupiter and Saturn.
What's Up for August? This month our main focus is the Perseid meteor shower.
The best known meteors of the year, the Perseids, are back. But...this year's shower will have to contend with a bright Moon on the peak nights. Still, you could see a dozen or more meteors per hour, including the occasional very bright meteor, also called a fireball.
The meteors in this shower are particles left behind in the debris trail of a comet called Swift-Tuttle. This 16-mile-wide, icy dustball orbits the Sun every 133 years. It last swept through the inner solar system in 1992 and will return in the year 2126.
Earth passes through part of this trail of debris every year, creating the meteor shower as tiny pieces of comet debris collide with our atmosphere and burn up.
The best viewing this year will be on the mornings of August 12th and 13th, in the last couple of hours before dawn. The Moon will be nearly full during this time, so you'll have a better chance to see meteors when the Moon is low in the west, or the brief period after it sets.
For the best meteor watching, face toward the east and look up. The Perseids generally appear to radiate from a point here, a bit to the left of the Pleiades star cluster, but they can appear pretty much anywhere on the sky.
It's important to find a spot away from bright lights and give your eyes a little time to adjust to the darkness. Try to avoid looking at your bright phone screen too. You'll see more meteors that way.
And although you're more likely to see meteors at the shower's peak, you should also be able to spot a few any night the week before. Just know that the Moon's brightness will wash out most of the fainter Perseids this year.
In planet spotting this month, the Moon pairs up with Jupiter in the evening sky on the 9th. It then visits with Saturn on the 11th.
Here are the phases of the Moon for August.
You can catch up on all of NASA's current and future missions at nasa.gov.
I'm Preston Dyches from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and that's What's Up for this month.