Monthly Sky Guide

August's Guide To The Sky


Let's talk about James Webb

Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

Carina Nebula is a ton of gas and dust that looks like mountains and valleys in space; except the valleys are 7 lightyears high, full of extremely massive hot young stars can't be seen in UK skies sadly.

Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

Stephens quintet is the largest image by the James Webb so far at 150 million pixels. Its powerful infrared vision and extremely high spatial resolution shows never before seen details in this galaxy group, including huge shock waves as one galaxy passes through another. It can be seen in our skies in Pegasus, but is quite faint. So you will need a good telescope.

Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

The Southern ring nebula (which is very much like the northern hemispheres ring nebula in Lyra) is a dying star sending out gas rings. James Webb actually found previously unseen galaxies behind it in its images we did not know where there.

Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

SMACS 0723 is Webb's version of Hubble's deep field image - and wow it does not disappoint. The deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe to date has thousands of galaxies, including the faintest objects ever observed. This image represents a grain of sand held at arms length up to the sky from you on the ground. WOW!.

Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

In WASP 95b Webb captured the distinct signature of water along with evidence for clouds and haze in the atmosphere surrounding a hot, puffy gas giant planet orbiting a distant Sun-like star. This just goes to show the massive capabilities of this amazing telescope.

The August Sky


The planets are finally starting to move into the night sky from being morning objects. Saturn is rising around 9:30pm and reaches opposition this month so will put on a good show. Jupiter follows around 10:45pm meaning it is up most of the night. Mars and Uranus rise together at midnight and are close together as they rise with Uranus just above the red planet at the start of the month. You'll have to wait until 3:45am for the bright Venus to pop up before the Sun, then rises at around 5:30am. So after a few months of not great morning planets, we are finally starting to get a good view of our celestial neighbours.


There has also been a bright comet in the skies and they say that it will be well worth a peek this month. Comet C/2017 K2 Panstarrs starts in the constellation Ophiuchus, ending in Scorpius. I've seen a few pics of it in the facebook group and it looks pretty. It came closest on July 14th to Earth at 172 million miles away. It was still quite far and it has been brightening. You should be able to spot it with binoculars.

We start the month with the Moon out of the way - which is a great start to the month as we can get out and take a peek at some galaxies or nebula that may be washed out by the bright Moon.



2nd
August 2022

Mars and Uranus are close in the sky. Finding Uranus can be difficult as you need a telescope to see the dim planet. But tonight is a great opportunity to spot it as it will be just above left of Mars. Rising around midnight, it should be dark enough and high enough - probably best around 2:00am to see before the Sun washes it out.



4th
August 2022

Taking a peek at tonight's Moon, see if you can spot the X and V on the surface. This is a clair-obscur effect created on a roughly 42% lit waxing Moon. Where a few craters created what looks like an X and V from the sunlight glinting off their edges.



11th
August 2022

Take a look at the nearly full Moon and there is a new feature I read about called, Reiner Gamma, which is a bright swirl in the area called, Oceanus Procellarum. It is the big dark Mare on the left part of the Moon. This object is actually best on or near a full Moon - unlike other features that looks best at the shadowed part.

Next to the crater Reiner was originally thought to be a lunar highland, but scientists eventually realized that it cast no shadow on the moon and its still a bit of a mystery how it was created, but they think it is associated with a localized magnetic field.



12th
August 2022

A full Moon rises at 9:23pm with Saturn just above right of it, and Jupiter rising not long after. Pop out after 11:00pm and you will see a cool thin triangle conjunction between the planets and our Moon.



13th
August 2022

It is time for the famous Perseid meteor shower, which of course is always our naked eye object of the month. However this month a just past full Moon will be getting in the way this year.



15th
August 2022

Look out from 11:00pm onwards as the Moon and Saturn rise together above the horizon. The Moon will be to the planet's right, with Saturn slowly moving up and over it as the morning moves on and the sky rotates.

Peaking 12th / 13th of the month, if you look up for the 'W' in the sky - which is the constellation Cassiopeia; just below her is the hero Perseus which is the area the meteors will be radiating from. But we always say just look up as predictions are always high with around 100 - 120 per hour. With the Moon up, and as always a summer sky in the UK, the most I have seen over an hour or so is around 67.



14th
August 2022

Saturn reaches opposition tonight meaning it will be nice and bright for us to view. Its rings will have visibly brightened as the month went on to their peak tonight. This is definitely our telescope object of the month. You should also see that the Moon has moved and will now be sitting in between the two planets Saturn and Jupiter.



15th
August 2022

The 87% lit Moon is now closer to Jupiter and will be moving past it sitting to it's left on the 16th. So you have a few good nights to pop out and see these 3 objects in our skies.



19th
August 2022

After midnight (so morning of 19th) the Moon will be near the planet Mars and there will be a bright blue star cluster - the Pleiades. This will be an awesome early sight in our sky and a great chance to whip out your binoculars and view all the objects that are up.



20th
August 2022

If you missed it yesterday, this morning, after midnight, the Moon will have moved past the Pleiades, but you have a second chance at seeing yesterdays show, plus another chance at our binocular object of the month sight.



23rd
August 2022

If your into your minor planets, 4 Vesta reaches opposition tonight. Although you will only see a white dot of light through a telescope, its a cool thing to spot and to watch how it moves in relation to the stars over the month. It kind of rises with Saturn and is to it's left, but in the middle of no-mans land, so a bit of star hopping may be needed to find it below Aquarius.



26th
August 2022

If your up after 5:00am as Venus rises, there will be a thin crescent Moon just to it's left. A very nice morning view out your window as you sip that coffee to make you smile - ready for the day ahead.



28th
August 2022

See if you can spot the now thin evening Moon as it has moved past the Sun. It will slowly be getting high and brighter in the evening sky.




Objects of the month


Naked Eye Object


Perseid Meteor Shower

Beauty of this event is you don't need any equipment. Just grab a coffee or hot chocholate, get the kids or dogs and go out into your garden or a nice dark field and look up. The peak of the shower happens in the middle of August (usually 12th / 13th), but we entered the dust stream in July and won't leave it until the end of August. So the shower of meteors slowly builds up each night to its peak, them slowly dwindles back to normality.

These fixed events like the Perseids are named due to the location in the sky from where the meteors radiate. The Perseids are named so because they seem to come from the constellation Perseus - in fact from around the ancient hero's head. Perseus rises pretty much from when the Sun sets, i'd say around 10:00pm onwards, to the North East. Now, if you don't have a compass handy, put your left arm out towards the setting sun, your right arm straight out the opposite side, bring them both together in front of you, and look up probably slightly to your right. You should see a slightly off 'W' in the sky. This is Cassiopeia, the vain queen, Perseus is just below this.

As the night goes on, Perseus rises and so you will get a better chance to see the meteors. Later in the night, some say around 2:00am, will be best. So set an alarm. Every year they predict 100 - 120 an hour, but your never going to see this amount (i'm sorry to say cause of light pollution and the Moon, which is in a bad position this year). But I personally have laid on a field with my wife and counted 67 in around an hour and a half. Its an unpredictable dust lane left by a comet with dense areas within it, so you never know. Just think, your seeing pieces of a comet burning up in our atmosphere as our planet passes through it's path. And it only takes one slightly larger piece to create a stunning display that you'll remember for ever.


Binocular Object


A host of objects

There will be an almost upside down 'U' shape of objects to see. At around 3:00am, you will have starting from the left towards the rising sun, the huge red giant star, Betelgeuse, in Orion, peeking up from the horizon. To it's right, slightly above, is another red star, Aldebaran, the bulls eye in Taurus and above that you will have Mars, the Moon, and to their left, the bright Pleiades cluster. Further right will be Jupiter, and further still, Saturn. A fantastic array of different objects to sweep your binoculars over. Also, see if you can spot each plus see Jupiter's 4 main moons and Saturn's bright rings.


Telescope Object


Saturn at opposition

The planet rises and is up pretty much most of the night. So we have a great chance to see it over the month. Because it is at opposition - which means directly opposite us from the Sun in our orbit - it appears brighter, especially its awesome ring system. If you watch it over the morning, you will see it's rings dip from one side to the other as we spin. They are also slightly tipped towards us giving us a great view of them. See if you can spot the gaps, and even with a small telescope you can see them - maybe even see it's Moon Titan, to its bottom right. Remember, reflectors (Mirrored telescopes) flip things round.


Astrophotography Object


IC1396 - The Elephants Trunk Nebula

This awesome looking nebula in the kings head of Cepheus, looks amazing when photographed with cones of gas that look like an elephants trunk. It is 20 lightyears long within the cluster of young stars, which are within the cloud of glowing ionised gas. The trunk itself is made of cooler interstellar gas, which blocks out light towards earth creating this nice long thin silhouette that gives the nebula its name at around 3,000 light years away.



Clear skies guys, and remember... there's a billion worlds in your back garden!

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