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  • Chris Baker

What's Up? -AUGUST 2023

Each month I highlight a few objects you can spot in the night sky without the need for optical equipment.

Despite there being little darkness this time of year - you'll still be able to spot a number of wonderous sights!


Saturn puts on a fine display and this month we have the fantastic Perseid meteor shower!


PLANETS


Venus


Venus won't be visible during most of the month but begins to make an appearance as a morning object during the last week - rising a couple of hours before sunrise. It will be extremely bright and unmissable by then.


Venus looking directly east 5am at the end of the month

Courtesy of Stellarium



Mercury

Too tough to spot I think


Jupiter

The planet is putting on a fine display this month shining brightly and rising after midnight. Look east mid month then south east as the month progresses -it's so bright you cannot miss it!

The example below shows the planet before sunrise mid month - see if you can spot the constellation ORION low down in the south too. You'll need a low horizon for that.



Jupiter mid month shining brightly in the south east after midnight

Courtesy of Stellarium


Mars

Mars is will be too difficult to spot this month



Saturn

Saturn puts on a spectacular display this month and is visible all night long throughout the month. On the 31st Saturn will be close to the full moon too - worth seeing that!


Saturn around midnight mid month looking south

Courtesy of Stellarium



Saturn close to the full moon on the 31st August -looking south

Courtesy of Stellarium



And now for the PERSEID METEOR SHOWER



What is a Meteor? Before we delve into the specifics of the Perseid meteor shower, it's important to understand what a meteor is. A meteor, often referred to as a "shooting star," is a streak of light that appears when a meteoroid – a small rocky or metallic body – enters Earth's atmosphere and burns up due to friction with the air. The result is a brilliant and fleeting streak of light across the sky.


What is the Perseid Shower? The Perseid meteor shower is a celestial phenomenon that occurs annually when Earth passes through the debris left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle. This debris consists of tiny particles, most no larger than a grain of sand, that were shed by the comet during its journey through the solar system. As these particles enter our atmosphere and vaporize, they create the breathtaking display of light known as the Perseid meteor shower.


When to See It The Perseid meteor shower is known for its reliable and impressive performance, making it a favourite among astronomers and sky enthusiasts. It typically occurs from mid-July to late August, with its peak activity around August 11th to 13th. During this time, the Earth passes through the densest part of the debris field, resulting in a higher frequency of meteors streaking across the sky. In fact, during the peak, observers can witness up to 60 or more meteors per hour under optimal conditions.


Where to Look Observing the Perseid meteor shower doesn't require any specialized equipment – just a clear sky and a comfortable vantage point away from bright city lights. To maximize your viewing experience, find an open area with an unobstructed view of the sky. Lie back on a blanket or reclining chair, allowing your eyes to adjust to the darkness. While the meteors can appear anywhere in the sky, they will all seem to radiate from a point in the constellation Perseus, which gives the shower its name. This radiant point rises in the northeastern sky after sunset and moves higher as the night progresses. However, don't focus solely on the radiant point – keep your gaze wandering to fully appreciate the stunning streaks of light across different parts of the sky.


Looking north east after dark will be good enough to spot the meteors - but to help you further look for the asterism 'W' shape of Cassiopeia and they will emanate from just below. But don't worry if you cannot find the W - simply look up in the north east and you'll be fine.


Cassiopeia in the north east.

Courtesy of Stellarium



Saturday 12th August will be the main peak and as there's no moon to obstruct it should be a super opportunity.

Don't forget to make a wish when you see a shooting star.



Enjoy the night sky this month and let me know about your observations


Thank you for reading this blog and do let me know if there is anything you would like me to add to my Newsletter each month.

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