Every Monday I choose the celestial highlights of the Northern Hemisphere (mid-northern latitudes) for the following week, but be sure to check out my main feed for more in-depth articles on stargazing, astronomy and eclipses.
What to see in the night sky this week: August 1
Are you ready to spot the “shooting stars”? Active since July 17, the Perseid meteor shower can bring up to 100 “shooting stars” per hour on its peak night. In 2020, from Tuesday 11 August to Wednesday 12 August.
This is just the start of a fantastic week of stargazing. As the week progresses, it becomes one of the best weeks of the year to see the Milky Way in the run-up to the New Moon on August 19. From August 12, the Moon will rise after midnight, giving you a few hours of dark skies just as the brightest part of our galaxy arches over our heads.
With two of summer’s heavenly treats in the same week and some stunning views of Venus and the Moon, seven sparkling days of stargazing await!
Tuesday 11 August 2020: Perseid meteor shower peaks
Easily the most popular meteor shower of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, tonight is one of the best nights of the year to see “shooting stars”. It is caused by the dust and debris left in the Earth’s orbital path by comet 109P / Swift-Tuttle, which last entered the Solar System in 1992 and is expected to return in July 2126.
The Perseids can count up to 100 per hour. Will you see so many? A last quarter crescent moon around midnight will whiten some of the brightest meteors, but there should still be enough for patients’ eyes to spot.
Be out before midnight. In addition to some of the earliest “earthgrazers”, long-lived shooting stars near the eastern and western horizon, if you are in a dark place away from light pollution you may also see the Milky Way arching above you at south.
After midnight, to find the shooting stars, look at any part of the night sky and keep searching! However, you will need clear skies; if it’s cloudy, you won’t see anything.
It is also worth looking for the Perseid meteors from Wednesday 12th August to Thursday 13th August and also the night after. If the skies are clear this week, get out there and look up.
Wednesday 12 August – Saturday 22 August: see the Milky Way
Were you able to get a glimpse of our galaxy while watching the Perseids?
The center of our galaxy looks spectacular in August, but the Milky Way is at its best when the Moon is down. This runs from tonight through New Moon on August 19th.
Look south generally, preferably looking somewhere away from light pollution, and most importantly, somewhere where your view towards the southern horizon will not have the glow of any city or town.
Thursday 13th August 2020: Venus as “Morning Star” and Aldebaran near the Moon
If you enjoyed seeing Venus dominate as the “Evening Star” for the first half of 2020, now is the best time to appreciate how much time she is ruling as the “Morning Star” before dawn.
Always the brightest object in the night sky apart from the Moon, Venus today reaches its maximum elongation towards the west.
This means that, from our perspective, an Earth appears to be furthest from the Sun in its current morning appearance, so it appears at its highest point in the night sky before sunrise. Look over the eastern horizon about three hours before sunrise.
At 45.8 ° west of the Sun, it is the highest in the night sky that Venus will have in 2020.
If you get up early enough to see Venus, take a look at the bright star Aldebaran in the constellation of Taurus, which will be just 4 ° from a 34% illuminated Moon.
Saturday 15 August 2020: conjunction of a crescent moon and Venus
This morning Venus will rise again about three hours before the Sun, along with an 18% illuminated crescent moon (see above) that will seem closer to it the closer it gets to dawn.
Constellation of the week: Orion
Look east, and if you get up early enough, you can also enjoy some beautiful views of the winter constellations.
In particular you will see the famous cold climate constellation of Orion rising to one side. Its bright stars, the Betelgeuse ruby and the true blue Rigel, should both be nearly visible. Among them will be the Belt; at the top will be the constellation of Taurus and the bright red star Aldebaran.
Further proof that even if the stars change with the seasons, if you get up early enough can he cheat the system!
I wish you clear skies and eyes wide open.