This Week’s Sky at a Glance, July 31 – August 8 – Sky & Telescope

Comet NEOWISE was right down to magnitude 5.Zero or 5.5 by July 30th and fading by about a half-magnitude a day as anticipated. Finder chart via 0:00 August fifth UT, for the intense.


■ This night the waxing gibbous Moon is lined up with Jupiter and Saturn to its left, as proven beneath. The Moon is simply over the Sagittarius Teapot. Covering the Moon together with your finger will make the Teapot stars simpler to see, assuming your night sky is not too shiny with summer season haze.

On August 1st, the just about-full Moon shines with simply-previous-full Jupiter and Saturn. The Moon and planets seem full once they’re at opposition: reverse the Sun as seen from Earth. But planets transfer westward with respect to your panorama because the yr revolves, whereas the Moon strikes east from evening to nighttime. So, when the Moon and an outer planet seem close to one another within the sky, one in all them is on its approach to its opposition and the opposite is previous its opposition.Another approach to put this: Planets close to a waxing Moon are at all times previous opposition. Planets close to a waning Moon are at all times on their approach to opposition.SATURDAY, AUGUST 1

■ The practically full Moon this night kinds a triangle with Jupiter and Saturn, roughly as proven above. These sky scenes are at all times drawn actual for a viewer at latitude 40° north, longitude 90° west, close to the center of North America. They’re shut sufficient for the remainder of the continent, however do not at all times count on a excellent match should you’re in Boston or Florida or California.

■ Today is Lammas Day or Lughnasadh, one of many 4 conventional “cross-quarter” days halfway between the solstices and the equinoxes. Sort of. Over the centuries since this custom took root in Europe, the calendar drifted with respect to Earth’s place in its orbit. So in 2020, the midpoint between the June solstice and the September equinox truly falls on August fifth: at 1:08 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (17:08 UT).

That minute is the precise middle-stability of astronomical summer season: the very high of the circle of the yr (as outlined by the astronomical seasons, and for the Northern Hemisphere.)


■ The shiny Moon at nightfall kinds a gently curving line with Saturn and Jupiter to its higher proper, as proven above.Later within the night the road shines increased and turns extra degree. It’s precisely degree round 12:30 a.m. daylight saving time, relying on how far east or west you’re in your time zone.


■ Full Moon (actual at 11:59 a.m. EDT). This night the Moon rises about a half hour after sundown for most of North America. By dusk it is shining brightly low within the southeast, in dim Capricornus, to the decrease left of Saturn and Jupiter. High above the Moon is Altair.

■ Mars is at perihelion, its closest to the Sun in its 1.88-year orbit. Its nearer-than-common photo voltaic distance this summer season contributes a little to Mars’s brightness.


■ The Big Dipper hangs diagonally within the northwest after darkish. From its midpoint, look to the correct by about three fists at arm’s size to seek out Polaris (not very shiny at 2nd magnitude) glimmering due north in the identical place it at all times does.

Polaris is the deal with-finish of the Little Dipper. The solely different elements of the Little Dipper which can be even modestly shiny are the 2 stars forming the outer finish of its bowl: 2nd-magnitude Kochab and third-magnitude Pherkad. On August evenings you may discover them to Polaris’s higher left (by about a fist and a half). They’re referred to as the Guardians of the Pole, since they ceaselessly circle round Polaris all through the evening and all year long.


■ The actual midpoint of summer season comes right this moment at 1:08 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (17:08 UT). This is the midway level between this yr’s June solstice and September equinox.


■ Low within the northwest or north at the tip of those lengthy summer season twilights, would you acknowledge noctilucent clouds should you noticed them? They’re probably the most astronomical of all cloud sorts, what with their excessive altitude and their formation on meteoric mud particles. And they’re pretty uncommon — although changing into extra widespread in recent times because the Earth’s ambiance adjustments. See Bob King’s Nights of Noctilucent Clouds.


■ Bright Vega passes closest to overhead round 10 or 11 p.m., relying on how far east or west you’re in your time zone. How carefully it misses your zenith will depend on how far north or south you’re. It passes proper via your zenith should you’re at latitude 39° north (Washington DC, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Lake Tahoe). How carefully are you able to choose this simply by wanting?

Deneb crosses its closest to the zenith virtually precisely two hours after Vega. To see Deneb precisely straight up, you’d have to be at latitude 45° north: Portland, Minneapolis, Montreal, southern France, northern Italy.


■ Mars and the waning gibbous Moon rise collectively round 11 p.m. or so daylight saving time, separated by solely 2° or 3° for North America. By midnight they’re fairly the spectacle shining low within the east. Dawn finds them very excessive within the south, now as little as 1° aside relying on the place you’re.


This Week’s Planet Roundup

Mercury glimmers low within the east-northeast throughout daybreak. It’s shiny, rising from magnitude –0.9 to –1.Three this week, nevertheless it will get a little decrease every morning. Look for it about 30° decrease left of sensible Venus.

Venus (magnitude –4.5, transferring from japanese Taurus into the highest of Orion’s Club) rises in deep darkness greater than 1½ hours earlier than the very starting of daybreak. As daybreak will get beneath manner, Venus blazes brightly within the east. To its proper or decrease proper is Orion. The brightest star excessive higher left of Venus is Capella.In a telescope Venus is a very thick crescent, shrinking this week from 28 to 25 arcseconds tall whereas waxing from 42% to 47% sunlit — simply in need of dichotomy.

Mars rises within the east round 11 p.m. daylight saving time, shiny (magnitude –1.2) yellow-orange in Pisces like a far-off bonfire. Where will it come up? Watch the horizon beneath the Great Square of Pegasus. By daybreak Mars shines grandly excessive and shiny within the south, a excessive-blown firespark.In a telescope this week Mars grows from 14½ to 15½ arcseconds in obvious diameter, as huge because it seems at some oppositions! But we’re nonetheless rushing towards it alongside Earth’s quicker orbit across the Sun, and we have now a lengthy approach to go. Around this yr’s opposition in early October, Mars shall be 22.6 arcseconds extensive.

Mars continues to be very gibbous, 87% sunlit. Look for its white South Polar cap and for subtler darkish floor markings. To get a map of the facet of Mars dealing with you at the date and time you may observe, use our Mars Profiler. The map there may be rectangular; bear in mind to mentally wrap it onto the facet of a globe. (Features close to the map’s edges turn into very foreshortened.)

An terribly excessive-res picture of Mars, taken July 17th by Enrico Enzmann and Damian Peach when Mars was 12.9 arcseconds in diameter. South is up. Peach says, “Mars this morning is looking very hazy with airborne dust.” They used a 76cm (30-inch) Ritchey-Chrétien telescope with a Canon ME20 digicam to amass video frames for stacking.The darkest horizontal streak close to middle is Sinus Sabaeus, ending on its proper (“following”) finish with two-pronged Sinus Meridiani. Upper proper of that’s Margaritifer Sinus.Jupiter and Saturn (magnitudes –2.7 and +0.2, respectively) are a little previous opposition. They loom within the southeast in twilight and move highest within the south round midnight daylight-saving time. Jupiter is brightest; Saturn is 8° to its decrease left or left.Farther to Jupiter’s proper is the Sagittarius Teapot. High to the planets’ higher left, the brightest star is Altair.Keep up with the telescopic interaction of Jupiter with its moons and their shadows, and discover all of the transit instances of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, within the Celestial Calendar part of the present month’s Sky & Telescope.

Jupiter’s non-Red-Spot facet, imaged on July 26th by Christopher Go within the Philippines. South is up. Note the chaos in and across the darkish North Equatorial Belt, particularly on the left (celestial west; previous) facet. The smoother South Equatorial Belt is split by a shiny cloud line all alongside its center. The central-meridian longitude (System II) at the time of the image was was 221°. Writes Go, “I was fortunate to get enough data for Juno’s target area for PJ28,” the subsequent shut swingby (perijove) of NASA’s Jupiter orbiter Juno.Saturn on July ninth as imaged by Christopher Go. South is up. The ring tilt has lessened sufficient that a little bit of the globe peeks up from behind the rings’ south edge. On the globe, a small white storm at latitude 63° north, and a slight dent within the fringe of the North Equatorial Belt virtually useless middle, have been introduced out by boosting the picture’s brightness distinction and shade distinction, and by edge enhancement. This processing has added artifacts round sharp edges within the rings. Uranus (magnitude 5.8, in Aries) is excessive within the east by 2 a.m. daylight-saving time, some 20° to the celestial east of Mars.

Neptune (magnitude 7.8, in Aquarius) is excessive within the south-southeast at that point, about 30° west of Mars. Finder charts for Uranus and Neptune.

All descriptions that relate to your horizon — together with the phrases up, down, proper, and left — are written for the world’s mid-northern latitudes. Descriptions that additionally depend upon longitude (primarily Moon positions) are for North America.

Eastern Daylight Time, EDT, is Universal Time (also referred to as UT, UTC, GMT, or Z time) minus Four hours.

Want to turn into a higher astronomer? Learn your manner across the constellations. They’re the important thing to finding every little thing fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope.

This is an out of doors nature passion. For a simple-to-use constellation information overlaying the entire night sky, use the massive month-to-month map within the middle of every situation of Sky & Telescope, the important journal of astronomy.

The Pocket Sky Atlas plots 30,796 stars to magnitude 7.6, and lots of of telescopic galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae amongst them. Shown right here is the Jumbo Edition for simpler studying outside at evening. Sample chart.Once you get a telescope, to place it to good use you may want a detailed, massive-scale sky atlas (set of charts). The primary customary is the Pocket Sky Atlas (in both the unique or Jumbo Edition), which reveals stars to magnitude 7.6.

Next up is the bigger and deeper Sky Atlas 2000.0, plotting stars to magnitude 8.5; practically thrice as many. The subsequent up, as soon as you understand your manner round, are the even bigger Interstellarum atlas (stars to magnitude 9.5) or Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.75). And learn use sky charts with a telescope.

You’ll additionally need a good deep-sky guidebook, comparable to Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Strong and Sinnott, or the larger (and illustrated) Night Sky Observer’s Guide by Kepple and Sanner.

Can a computerized telescope substitute charts? Not for newcomers, I do not suppose, and never on mounts and tripods which can be lower than high-high quality mechanically, which means heavy and costly. And as Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer say of their Backyard Astronomer’s Guide, “A full appreciation of the universe cannot come without developing the skills to find things in the sky and understanding how the sky works. This knowledge comes only by spending time under the stars with star maps in hand.”

Audio sky tour. Out beneath the night sky with yourearbuds in place, take heed to Kelly Beatty’s monthlypodcast tour of the heavens above. It’s free.

“The dangers of not thinking clearly are much greater now than ever before. It’s not that there’s something new in our way of thinking, it’s that credulous and confused thinking can be much more lethal in ways it was never before.”            — Carl Sagan, 1996

“Facts are stubborn things.”            — John Adams, 1770

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