DUE TO THE IMPACT OF CURRENT EVENTS, SOUTHERN CROSS ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY IS CANCELLING ALL PUBLIC OUTREACH ACTIVITIES UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. NORMAL OPERATIONS WILL RETURN AS SOON AS IT IS DEEMED SAFE TO DO SO. THANK YOU FOR YOUR UNDERSTANDING AND COOPERATION.

 

Stargazer

SCAS  AUGUST 2020 - Compiled by Barb Yager

Lunar Timetable

 
Full Moon Image
Full Moon August 3rd @ 11:59 am
Last Quarter Moon Image
Last Quarter Moon August 11th @ 12:45 pm
New Moon Image
New Moon August 18th  @ 10:42 pm
First Quarter Moon Image
First Quarter Moon August 25th @ 2:00 pm
 

 

METEOR SHOWERS THIS MONTH

PERSEIDS

Each July and August the Earth encounters debris left behind from comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. This comet has an orbit of 133 years and last entered the inner solar system in 1992. Even though the comet now lies in the outer portions of the solar system, far away from Earth, we still encounter debris that has been left behind during the many trips this comet has made through the solar system.
 

August 11th / 12th

To view the Perseids at their best, you need to know when to watch. During the evening hours the radiant, the area of the sky where Perseid meteors shoot from, is located low in the northern sky. This is the worst time to try and view the shower for sheer numbers as most of the activity will occur beyond your line of sight, being blocked by the horizon. The few that do come your way this time of night are special. The reason is that they just skim the upper regions of the atmosphere and will last much longer than Perseids seen during the morning hours. Since they last longer they also will travel a much longer distance across the sky. Most of these “earthgrazing” Perseids will be seen low in the east or west, traveling north to south. Occasionally one will pass overhead and will be unforgettable as you watch it shoot across the sky for several seconds. While these meteors are few, they are certainly worth the effort to try and catch. Since the moon will interfere with morning meteor observing, more emphasis should be on viewing prior to midnight this year.

As the Earth rotates and the time approaches local midnight, the Perseid radiant has risen higher into the northeastern sky. The meteors are now shorter and last only a few tenths of a second. You still only see about half of the actual activity as the remainder still occur beyond your line of sight. As the morning progresses, the activity will increase as the radiant climbs higher into the sky. Theoretically, the best time to watch the Perseids is just before the break of dawn when the radiant lies highest in a dark sky. This is usually around 04:00 local time. Experienced observers often say the hour between 03:00 and 04:00 is usually the best, not 04:00 to 05:00. Perhaps this is due to fatigue as experienced observers have watched for several hours by then and may have trouble staying alert.

The strongest Perseid rates this year are expected to occur on the Tuesday night/Wednesday morning August 11/12, when the Earth closest to the core orbit of comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle. If you cannot observe on that night activity will still be good on Monday and Thursday. The further you watch from August 12, the weaker the display will be. To view the Perseids successfully, it is suggested you watch from a safe rural area that is as dark as possible. The more stars you can see, the more meteors will also be visible. No matter the time of night, Perseid meteors can be seen in all portions of the sky. No matter which direction you look, it is advisable to aim your center of view about half-way up in the sky. Don’t look straight up as more activity is visible at lower elevations. Some observers like to view toward the constellation Perseus and the radiant. This way they can see Perseid meteors travel in all directions. The disadvantage of viewing in this direction is that the Perseid meteors will be short, especially near the radiant. The other choice is to face away from the radiant and witness longer meteors, which are more impressive. Even if the radiant is at your back, you can still distinguish Perseid meteors from others as they will all travel in the same parallel paths and will have similar velocities.


Here are some tips on how to maximize your time looking for meteors and fireballs during December:

  • Get out of the city to a place where city and artificial lights do not impede your viewing
  • If you are out viewing the shower during its peak, you will not need any special equipment. You should be able to see the shower with your naked eyes.
  • Carry a blanket or a comfortable chair with you - viewing meteors, just like any other kind of stargazing is a waiting game, and you need to be comfortable. Plus, you may not want to leave until you can't see the majestic celestial fireworks anymore.

 

BRIGHT COMETS THIS MONTH

COMET 2002 F3 NEOWISE MAG 7.1
The comet is climbing higher thru Comea Bernices and into Virgo this month.
At 10 pm looking west north west @approximatley 280 degrees, the comet is still 27 degrees above the horizon.

                   

 

Clear Sky Clock

 


Evening

 

5  PLANETS: Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Neptune, and Mercury late August.
 
 
01- The Moon lies 1.5 degrees below bright Jupiter 8 p.m. and forms a triangle with Saturn and Jupiter in SSE. Mars rises in the east about 11:15 p.m. Neptune rises in SE in Aquarius by 10 p.m.
03- The FRUIT FULL MOON is almost full rising in the SE at dusk.
11- LAST QUARTER MOON occurs 12:45 p.m. and rises after Midnight. 
12- Early PERSEID METEORS may be visible by late evening. Earthgrazers (Perseids) often occur zipping along the horizon. See morning section.
18- NEW MOON occurs 10:42 p.m. Invisible beside the Sun.
22- The crescent Moon lies 6 degrees above Spica, in Virgo, in the SW. Aim binoculars to black Earthshine on the lunar surface. 
25- FIRST QUARTER MOON occurs 1:58 p.m. and shines 5 degrees above Antares (red supergiant) known as the heart beating in the Scorpion's torso in the SSW. 
28- Look for Mercury on the western horizon. At 10 p.m. the Moon drifts 1.4 degrees below Jupiter. 
30- Ruddy Mars brightens and rises in the east by 10 p.m.
31- Blue-green Uranus rises higher in the east by Midnight. 
 
 
 

 

 

Constellations

Leo, Lion stalks the western horizon. The Big Dipper swings low in the NW. Bright Arcturus sparkles in the west below the Dipper's handle. Corvus the Crow leads Spica lower in SW. Libra shimmers in the SW. Huge Scorpius crawls into the SSW closely followed by the Sagittarian Teapot (center of our Milky Way Galaxy). Capricornus lies in the SE. Neptune sails across Aquarius in ESE. Hercules leads bright Vega and the vast Summer Triangle to the Zenith. Cygnus, Swan, soars within the Triangle. The celestial Birds of Summer glide across the night sky: Crow, Aquila Eagle and the Swan. The Great Square of Pegasus rises in the east. The Royal Family arrives in the NE:
King Cepheus, Queen Cassiopeia, daughter Andromeda and Perseus.
 



SOURCES:
NASA News
Astronomy/Sky & Telescope magazines
EarthSky News
Space.com
Spaceweather
Abrams Planetarium, MSU


Morning

 

Mercury (early August), Venus, Mars, Saturn & Jupiter SW. 

 
01- At dawn Mercury floats 7 degrees below the Gemini Twins in ENE. 
02- The bright Moon lies 1.1 degree below Pluto in Sagittarius.
03 The FRUIT MOON becomes full at 11:59 a.m. The Moon rises in SE at dusk and sets in the west at dawn.
09- In the  predawn the waning Moon lies 0.8 degrees below Mars.
11- At dawn, the LAST QUARTER MOON floats 7 degrees lower left of Uranus.
11/12 - ANNUAL PERSEID METEOR SHOWER reaches peak activity 2-4 a.m. 8/12th. Glittering debris from long gone Comet Swift Tuttle may produce 50-70 Perseids per hour in a dark sky area in clear skies. The radiant in Perseus rises in NE around midnight. Meteors become visible a long distance from the radiant as Earth cruises through dust tails of comets. The tiny particles incinerate into colorful celestial fireworks with long tails. Some fireballs may illuminate the sky during the shower. The only equipment is a lounge chair. Find a safe dark area with friends and hope weather cooperates! Perseids zip across the sky at 62,000 mph. Optical equipment is not needed.
13- In the predawn, the Moon and Aldebaran are 3 degrees apart in the Hyades cluster ENE. 
Brilliant Venus, Evening Star, glows left of reclining Orion, Hunter in the east. 
15- At dawn, the Moon and Venus are 3 degrees apart.  
29- Venus lies 7 degrees below the Gemini Twins. 
 
 
Constellations
 
Gigantic Orion, Hunter reclines low in the east. Procyon, Orion'l Little Dog, follows Orion. Brilliant blue Sirius in Orion's Big Dog sparkles low in SE. The Pleiades (7 Sisters) lead Taurus, Bull toward the Zenith. Aldebaran is the Bull's red eye in the Hyades cluster. Aries, Ram chases Pegasus (Winged Horse) westward. Cygnus, Swan becomes the Northern Cross on the NW horizon. The Royal Family reigns in the north.