Astronomy Events – August 2012July 31, 2012
Prepare to crane your necks as the Perseid display peaks mid-month. Considered one of the most reliable meteor showers, Perseid spotting is a great way to spend the Summer evenings (British Summer still more or less absent) and with sightings already being reported it’s a good chance to get kids interested by going out for a look as soon as it gets dark!
Another event of immense interest this month is the Mars landing of NASA’s latest rover named Opportunity. We live in exciting times.
So, with a little something listed below for everyone to enjoy, keep watching the skies!
Thursday 2nd August - Tonight’s Full Moon is also known as the Grain Moon, Sturgeon Moon and Lightning Moon
Sunday 5th into
Monday 6th August – NASA’s latest Mars rover (named Curiosity) from the Mars Science Laboratory mission is due to land on the Red Planet over night tonight. The car-sized, nuclear powered Curiosity has been designed to assess whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms
Expected to land around 01:31 EDT (05:31 GMT 06:31 BST), you can watch build up to this event on NASA TV live from 03:00 GMT (Entry descent) following straight in to the landing itself (programme begins from 04:00 GMT)
We’ll post a Live Player closer to the time
Thursday 9th August – Last Quarter Moon
Friday 10th August – The Moon is at Apogee today (the farthest away its orbit will take it this time around) at a distance of 404,125 km
Saturday 11th August – The annual Perseid Meteor Shower peaks this evening, with the best time for viewing (from the UK) between 23:00 GMT (00:00 BST) and 04:30 GMT (05:30 BST) on 12th August
This year there is a waning crescent Moon (24% lit) which shouldn’t interfere too badly, last year the peak of the Perseid shower coincided with a full Moon!
With a ZHR (Zenithal Hourly Rate) of anything up to 100 meteors per hour, now is a great time to get kids involved, as although the peak is late meteors can still be spotted from nightfall in the days leading to and following the shower’s peak. The radiant guide above will show the direction the meteors will come from, but they’ll be visible streaking away from the radiant’s centre
Wednesday 15th August - Venus is at it’s Greatest Western Elongation, meaning it is rising before the Sun in the early morning. Early risers with a flat Eastern horizon may get a good photo opportunity, as Jupiter, Venus, the thin waning crescent Moon and Mercury all align in the pre-dawn light (with Mercury rising around 03:15 GMT (04:15 BST)
Thursday 16th August - Mercury is at Greatest Western Elongation after Venus saw the same yesterday, if you’re lucky you might be able to get a photo as it sits near the waning crescent Moon just before sunrise
Friday 17th August – New Moon, which rises and sets with the Sun making tonight a good evening to observe deep sky objects
Thursday 23rd August – The Moon is at Perigee today at a distance of 369,730 km
Friday 31st August - Because tonight’s Full Moon is the second this month, it is also known as a Blue Moon…
We say “Once in a Blue Moon” to mean something is a rare occurrence, but in this case science has worked out that this saying actually means “Once every 2.72 years” (apparently)
Planets visible this month:
Remember, it can take your eyes up to 20 minutes to become properly dark adapted, and anything up to an hour for a telescope to reach ambient temperature outside (to ensure the best image), so give yourself plenty of time to get set up!
To make it easier to find this list of astronomical happenings you can also locate it in the “Monthly Guide” section in the menu bar to the right. Handy!
Guide images created with Stellarium