The Monthly Night Sky

All information presented here is taken from my 74 page book

Nightscenes 2018 which is available to order from our web shop and all good book stores! Note we can no longer supply printed copies as we’ve run out but a pdf version is now available from our web shop. A kindle version is also available from Amazon UK



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.


August 2018




























































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.


Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner may become a binocular object this month and is circumpolar. Venus lies low in the evening twilight. Jupiter is an early evening object passing close to Alpha Libra. Saturn lies in Sagittarius and with neighbouring Vesta in Ophiuchus they are also visible in the evenings. Mars is bright and still a decent size in a telescope for the late evenings. Neptune and Uranus are rising before midnight mid month. Pluto is viewable with a large telescope near the Teaspoon asterism. Mercury is a morning twilight planet last two weeks of August. The Perseid meteor shower peaks on the night of the 12th under ideal moonless conditions. Dwarf planet Ceres is quickly lost in twilight but has a close encounter with two galaxies before it is gone. The top of Scotland, Orkney and Shetland get to see a slim partial solar eclipse on the 11th.



Main events


08-Aug-C-GZ.jpgWe begin with the prospect of a reasonable comet that could be a good binocular target this month. Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner starts off high up in Cassiopeia and races down towards Capella in Auriga by early September. It should brighten from mag 8.8 to 7.2 but always bear in mind comets are notoriously fickle so it could be brighter or fainter!






Next up is a bit harder as we are dealing with mag 8.8 Dwarf planet Ceres which lies very low in the west around 10pm and setting not long after. What makes it worth trying for, even in twilight, is that on the 4th and 5th it lies close to the galaxies M65 & M66 in Leo as shown above right based on Guide 9 software. The background image of the galaxies was taken in the Algarve at COAA, the Centre for Observational Astronomy in the Algarve, by the author. In the left hand wide field chart, Venus is also shown almost setting due west so helps in locating the area of interest. It has Beta (b) Virgo, Zavijava, above right of it but whilst Beta is mag 3.6 Venus will be a bright -4.2 so no confusion there then! Note also that when objects are low on the horizon  haze will make them fainter so certainly Ceres and the two galaxies will be 08-Aug-mn-ven-porrima.jpga challenge.


Meanwhile, the crescent Moon lies near Porrima and above Venus (right) in the evening twilight of the 14th. Look roughly twenty minutes after sunset otherwise Venus will set quickly and be gone for that evening.


By the 17th the Moon will lie to the upper left of Jupiter which in turn is moving past the lovely double star, Alpha (a) Libra08-Aug-jup-zubenelgenubi.jpg. They are closest on the 16th at just over ½° which is around the size of the lunar disk on average. Alpha is commonly called Zuben-El-Genubi and the two stars are mags 2.7 and 5.2 separated by 3.9 arc minutes so visible in a low power binocular. This will be the last time Jupiter is close to Alpha Libra until the morning twilight of December 5th 2029 as Jupiter takes just under twelve years (11.86) to orbit the Sun and so return to ~ the same spot against the stars.

08-Aug-vesta.jpg

Vesta is still a good binocular target during August in the evenings not too far from Saturn. It moves down between the stars 51 and 44 Oph (mags 4.8 & 4.2) on the 20th and is close to 51 Oph on the evening of the 21st as shown here at left.  That evening Vesta should be a mag 6.8 object so should be easy in a 10x50 binocular especially if you use a tripod for extra stability.

 




If there is one planet you really should take a look at through a telescope then the Ringed Planet Saturn is the one as there is nothing else in our solar system quite like it when you see the rings for yourself. The 06-Jun-Sat-details.jpgchart here shows the main features to look out for. Even in a spotting scope or large binocular you can just make out that Saturn is special in that it appears elongated.


To add to the fun, a large binocular or a small telescope will also show Saturn’s largest moon, 06-Jun-titan.jpgTitan, orbiting around the planet taking 16 days to complete one orbit. Time of when it is furthest from Saturn are shown above so do try to track it down.


Mercury races into the early morning twilight from August 16th and if you have never seen the inner planet and like early mornings then this is your chance.


08-Aug-perseids.jpgThe Perseid meteor shower peaks on the 12th with no Moon to spoil them (New on the 11th!)  so this is a very good year to go out, have a BBQ, invite friends round and enjoy the meteors. HOWEVER the maximum rate per hour (ZHR) is put at 80 so just over one a minute but that is under perfect conditions with the radiant directly above you. So a more realistic rate is likely to be 1/3 of that and often you have flurries of several over a fewl minutes, then some periods of nothing for several minutes. There will no doubt be a lot of Internet memes going around suggesting there may be thousands of meteors so please be realistic and enjoy the ones you do spot! Note that ideally don’t just pop outside from a bright room and expect to see lots of meteors as you need to allow around twenty minutes or so to ‘dark adapt’.





Also look out for the following:


Aug    3rd   Saturn lies south of Mu Sgr (morning)

Aug    6th   Thick crescent moon forms triangle with Aldebaran and M45 (morning)

Aug    7th   Moon lies to the left of Aldebaran (morning)

Aug    9th  Slim crescent Moon lies close to Zeta Gem (morning)

Aug  11th   Partial Solar Eclipse (Orkney, Shetland, top of Scotland).


08-Aug-sol-Eclipse.jpg
















Aug  13th   Crescent Moon lies to the right of Venus (bright evening twilight)

Aug  15th   Moon lies above Spica (evening twilight)

Aug  18th   First Quarter Moon lies near and above Beta Sco (evening)

Aug  19th   Moon lies above Antares (evening)

Aug  20th   Moon lies to right of Saturn (evening)

Aug  21st   Moon lies to the left of Saturn (evening)

Aug  23rd   Moon lies above Mars (evening)

Aug  25th   Moon forms line with Delta and Gamma  Cap (evening) / Juno lies between Omicron and

 Xi  Taurus (morning).

Aug  31st   Moon is close to Mu  Ceti (evening)


  Clear skies and happy sky watching.



Paul




The UK & Ireland Night Sky for 2018

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