All information presented here is taken from my 74 page book Nightscenes 2020 which is available to order from our web shop and all good book stores!
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) and can be used on the other dates and times shown in each corner of the chart.
Solar System quick summary
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.
Comete Neowise is receding but visible for a while in binoculars then telescope (see comet link above). Jupiter and Saturn now dominate the evenings. Uranus and Neptune are also now becoming better placed to view. Ceres rises late in the night passing close to 88 Aquarii on the 5th/6th and is at opposition on the 28th. Mars still lies in the morning sky as it moves through Pisces but its motion is now slowing down against the background stars. Venus dominates the early mornings now and passes close to Nu Geminorum on the 15th. Mercury can be seen for the first week to 10 days of the month in the bright morning twilight to the lower left of Venus. Minor world Vesta creeps out of the morning twilight and lies close to Mercury on the 3rd but will probably be lost in the twilight. However, Vesta improves towards the end of the month and passes through the stars of the Beehive cluster on the 29th. The Perseid meteor shower peaks on the 12th but moonlight will spoil the view.
Jupiter and Saturn dominate the southern late evening skies.
Over the last couple of years we have been watching Jupiter steadily slide down the ecliptic and gradually catching up with its distant neighbour, Saturn. They haven’t quite met yet, and reached opposition during July, indicating how close they are getting.
So, Jupiter reached opposition first, on July 14th which technically means it is viewable now in the evening skies. It shines at mag -
Being bigger and closer, Jupiter shows more detail in a telescope but if you use binoculars you may also be able to spot Jupiter's Galilean moons, the four were discovered by Galileo in 1610 AD. Small telescopes will show them better as in the view above taken by the author.
A telescope will also begin to show detail on the planet and the main features are shown at left. The GRS appears to be shrinking slowly so if you see it then give yourself a pat on the back. The two main equatorial belts are usually the most prominent but with continued study other subtle details may be glimpsed if conditions are right.
Meanwhile Saturn lies nearby in Sagittarius reached opposition on July 20th just six days after Jupiter. Saturn is fainter at mag 0.1 but that still makes it quite bright and noticeable, although Jupiter to its right is a bit of a giveaway! When a planet is at opposition it rises as the Sun sets and sets as the Sun rises so by months end both planets could now be said to be viewable in the (late) evenings.
Saturn’s main fame is the ring system which makes it look almost as big as Jupiter, yet the actual disk is smaller due to it being almost twice as far from us as the ‘King’ of the planets. On the planets disk look out for a North Polar ‘Hood’ and for a subtle dusky belt crossing the disk. The rings give Saturn its unique visual appearance in a telescope so look to see if you can spot the gap in the rings. This is the Cassini Division that separates the outer ‘A’ ring from the brighter and larger ‘B’ ring. It is also possible to note the shadow of the planet on the rings if you are careful with your studies.
Finally, in small telescopes and large binoculars you may spot Saturn’s largest moon, Titan so check out the details of where it will be in the chart below.
If planets and the moon meet at the start of the month then, due to the orbital period of the moon being (generally) less than the number of days in the typical month, it repeats at the end of the month. This happens for Jupiter and Saturn in August. The Moon lies to the lower right of Jupiter on the 1st then next evening below left of Saturn in the view above left set for 8:30pm. It returns to the scene on the 28th when it again lies to the lower right of Jupiter then on the 29th below and a little left of Saturn with the view above right set for 9pm. Jupiter is slowly moving under the ‘Teaspoon’ asterism and so lies a little further away from Saturn than at the start of the month.
Mars is the next planet to rise lying in Pisces and by mid month it rises around 10:30pm. It is slowly brightening as it heads towards a good opposition for us in the Northern hemisphere in October. Its path for the month is shown above and the moon joins it on the morning of the 9th with the chart set for 4am when Mars and the moon are higher in the sky over in the SSE. Mars lies close to the star Nu Piscium on the morning of the 22nd but the star shines at mag 4.6 compared with Mars at mag -
Dwarf planet Ceres does not have a good year as it lies quite low in the sky spending its time in lower Aquarius but it does come to opposition this month and so technically is at its best. First off it passes quite close to 88 Aqr on the 5th/6th which always helps to identify such a world as it is not resolvable in telescopes as anything other than a dot of light. So passing close to bright stars betrays its nature as you can watch it move past the star night after night. On opposition night Ceres on August 28th it shines at mag 7.7 so can be spotted in binoculars using the chart above.
In the morning sky ~ 4am on Aug 12th the Moon forms a triangle with M45 and Aldebaran, then next morning it lies directly above the Hyades cluster and Aldebaran. The 14th it lies in the horns of the Bull then on the 15th it is almost on a line between the stars 1 Gem and Eta Gem with the open star cluster M35 above them as an added bonus. The moon will be a crescent so hopefully it won’t overshadow the star cluster too much.
Meanwhile that same morning Venus lies very close to Nu Gem but Nu will be mag 4.1 compared with the dazzling brightness of Venus at mag -
Minor planet Vesta now creeps out of the twilight and although it lies close to Mercury on the 3rd it is doubtful you will see it in such bright skies. However it very quickly rises earlier each morning and from Aug 27th to 30th it passes right through the open star cluster M44, the Beehive cluster. On the 29th it lies right in the heart of the cluster as shown here and will make a good astrophoto sequence if you have clear mornings. The view here is set for an 80mm ED refractor with a 25mm eyepiece so should give a good view. Vesta will be mag 8.4 so faint compared with the central stars of the cluster but it should be identifiable as the only one that moves each morning!
Mercury lies in the early morning twilight and might still be viewable for the first week or so of August although it’s not at its best. Mercury is always fainter at the start of its morning apparitions so improves into early August but then rapidly drops back down towards the horizon so you really need a good clear NE to ENE horizon if you want to spot it.
Also look out for the following:
11th Last Quarter Moon lies near Mu Ceti and below Uranus (morning)
15th Uranus is stationary then begins retrograde motion (morning)
17th Mars forms shallow triangle with Mu and Nu Piscium (morning)
21st Crescent moon lies to right of Porrima in Virgo (evening twilight)
22nd Crescent Moon lies above Spica (evening twilight)
23rd Mars lies close to Nu Piscium (morning)
25th First Quarter Moon lies close to Graffias in Scorpius (evening twilight)
26th Moon lies to upper right of Antares (evening twilight)
Clear skies, happy sky watching and stay safe!
Webmaster © Paul L Money 2020
The UK & Ireland Night Sky for 2020
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