All information presented here is taken from my 74 page book NightScenes 2016.

Click on the monthly image to get a larger high resolution view of the night sky set for 53° N (Horncastle, England) but is usable for the UK and Eire.  All charts are set for the 1st of the month at 22:00 GMT (10pm), 23:00 BST during Summer Time and can be used on the other dates and times shown in each corner of the chart.

August 2016

The visible planets & small worlds

For most charts see the buttons at the top for various planets etc.. Charts & images in the text can be clicked to give a larger view.


In Nightscenes, the book, it doesn't feature the Dwarf Planet Pluto with its own full page entry but for those with large telescopes, Pluto came to opposition on July 7th at mag 14.1 and is located in the Teaspoon asterism in Sagittarius as shown here. Since the New Horizons spacecraft flew past in July 2015 it has turned out to be a very interesting world indeed so it is a shame it is so faint and far away. Still, the Teaspoon is a nice asterism to take a look at and when you do, you know that amongst its stars at the moment lies this distant world. Further finder charts can be found from the Pluto button above with more detailed close up charts for those who want them.

We get our last chance this month to spot Jupiter, as it is becoming swamped by the evening twilight, when the slim crescent moon lies close to it on the 5th. At the same time catch a glimpse of both Venus and Mercury deeper in the twilight shortly after sunset. Incidentally Venus lies directly above fainter Regulus that evening but the star may well be too faint in the bright twilight.

On the 27th there is an even greater challenge when Venus and Jupiter are in conjunction and only 8 arc min apart. Those with a GoTo telescope may try for this but you have to make sure you don't accidentally view the sun if you do it in daylight. Otherwise try around 20 minutes after sunset just above the western horizon but BE CAREFUL!  

For the rest of the evenings Mars and Saturn are low in the south west whilst Neptune and Uranus are now rising before midnight. Ceres lies not too far from Uranus and so has a similar period of visibility whilst Vesta slowly emerges out of the morning twilight over in upper Orion and below the star cluster M35 in Gemini on August 1st. Details of both minor worlds are on the asteroids and dwarves link button above in the menu.


Next up - Mars spends the month racing through central Scorpius and in doing so passes just below Deshubba (delta) Scorpii on the 9th, then the moon lies above it and Mars on the 11th the moon lies above right of Saturn the next evening. On the 17th & 18th Mars passes below the globular cluster M80, on the 19th it lies just below right of Omicron (o) and above Sigma (s) then on the 20th & 21st it passes above the globular M4.  By the 24th & 25th Mars passes between Saturn and the red supergiant star Antares. On the 25th Mars is in conjunction with Saturn. Indeed compare the colours of Mars and Antares - which is the redder? Mars will be magnitude -0.4 and Antares is mag 1 so the red planet will be slightly brighter whilst Saturn will be mag 0.4 so should be between them in brightness - see what you think.  Saturn is stationary on the 13th and resumes normal motion against the background stars after that.


August 12th is the peak for the annual Perseid Meteor Shower but moonlight will drown out the fainter meteors in the evening before midnight, however it is still worth trying for them as the Perseids do produce some very august-perseid-2012.jpgbright shooting stars sometimes with brief long trails. They are called the Perseids as they appear to radiate out from a point located in northern Perseus, this point for the apparent origin of the meteors is called the Radiant. It can be seen on our all sky chart  at left. The good news is that the moon sets just after midnight the next morning so this is ideal as the sky will get darker giving more chance of spotting them. The image at right was taken back in 2012 under almost ideal conditions.  It is the best the author has so far achieved in years of trying! The Perseid Radiant is shown at left but note that it actually drifts across the northern part of Perseus and that path is marked as the orange line from August 1st to 20th. The normal peak date is marked with the orange circle but Perseids can radiate out from a zone several degrees across centred on the radiant. The view is set for August 12th at 11pm looking NE and the longer Perseid streaks will be further from the radiant.

augus-mn-beta-cap.jpgMany of the events featured in Nightscenes involve the moon as it is the brightest (except for the Sun of course) and therefore most noticeable object that can be seen by the general public. So when it can point the way to interesting objects naturally the best of those events are featured. Double and multiple stars are fascinating and on the 16th (below) the almost full moon lies below and forming a nice curve with Alpha and Beta Capricorni. Both of these appear to be double systems however Alpha is actually a line of sight double. Alpha2 is called Secunda Giedi and is a sun like star  (Spec G5) shining at mag 3.6 and 106 ly away. Meanwhile Alpha1 or Prima Giedi is also similar to our sun (spec G3) and is mag 4 but is estimated to lie 570 ly away. This means they are not connected in any way and that Prima must be far more luminous than Secunda or our Sun! They can just be split with people of keen eyesight but a binocular will split them easily. It may seem a little odd that alpha2 is brighter than alpha1 but the assignment of components is from West to East or in general parlance, right to left. Beta or Dabih is also sun like with a spectral class of G0, is mag 3 and lies 328ly away so again has to be a more luminous star compared with the sun. It has a 6th mag companion close to it resolvable in binoculars which again makes for a fine pair. Interestingly Dabih itself is a triple star as well, not resolvable in amateur instruments whilst the 6th mag companion has a fainter companion just 3 arc sec away so quite tight in a small telescope.

  Clear skies and happy sky watching.


The UK & Ireland Night Sky for 2016 AD


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