By Garry Beckstrom
HERE’S WHAT TO LOOK FOR THIS MONTH
Click HERE to Download our basic EVENING Star Map for August 2017 (pdf)
(For star maps to print properly, download pdf and save to your computer, then print from there.)
Download our star maps to help you find your way around the sky.
Our basic star maps show the planets and major star patterns or constellations visible in the evening and morning skies this month, without faint background stars. This makes it easier to pick out the brighter patterns in the real sky. Hold the map over your head with “North” on the map facing the direction north. The middle of the circular map (marked “zenith”) is the point directly over your head. The edges of the circular map mark the horizon all around you. Find one of the bright constellation patterns, ignoring fainter stars you might see in between. You can then jump from constellation to constellation, finding your way around the sky. It helps to use a dim, red flashlight so that you can see both the map and the sky together.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR THIS MONTH
All descriptions below are for mid-northern latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. EST is Eastern Standard Time in North America.
EDT is Eastern Daylight Time in North America.
Below you’ll find a section about what to see in the EVENING SKY this month, followed by a section about what to see in the early MORNING SKY before dawn.
Below those sections you’ll find a list of dates this month where we point out specific things to look for on those days, along with other interesting information.
We hope you’ll find our night sky information fun and easy to use. Happy Stargazing!
THE EVENING SKY IN AUGUST
The two largest planets in our solar system, Jupiter and Saturn, dominate the evening sky this month. They’re easy to see.
Jupiter is very bright in the southwest, the first object to become visible as the sky darkens. As it gets even darker the bright star Spica appears nearby. During the month Jupiter will get closer to Spica. Check it out early before Jupiter sets..
As Jupiter dips low in the west, Saturn rides as high in the south as it will get.
If you find yourself away from artificial lights in the evening this month, you’ll be able to see the Milky Way quite bright, especially toward the south-southwest.
Look below at the picture. It shows the entire sky in the same way as our basic star maps. The middle of the circle is directly overhead and the edge of the circle shows the horizon all around you. The Milky Way looks like a cloud that begins low in the south-southwest and stretches toward the northeast, getting dimmer as it goes.
Our Evening Star Map (Click HERE to Download our basic EVENING Star Map for August 2017 (pdf)) does not show the Milky Way in order to keep the map simple, and because most people are using the star map in lighted areas where the Milky Way is not visible.
THE MORNING SKY IN AUGUST
This is the month for the Great American Eclipse of the Sun! The eclipse will occur during the day of August 21. For everything you need to know about the eclipse and how to see it, go to http://www.beckstromobservatory.com/solar-eclipse-aug-21-2017/
The Perseid Meteor Shower peaks on the 12th this month. See August 12 below for more.
The planet Venus dazzles in the eastern predawn sky this month. Venus is far brighter than anything else visible in the morning sky besides the Moon.
The three stars of the Summer Triangle – Vega, Deneb and Altair – are now in the western sky before dawn. High in the sky, you’ll find the Great Square. Neither of these star patterns are “official constellations,” but they both serve as landmarks to help you find your way around the sky.
Use our Morning Star Map (Click HERE to Download our basic MORNING Star Map for August 2017 (pdf)) to help you find these and other patterns in the morning sky.
SCROLL DOWN TO SEE WHAT TO LOOK FOR ON SOME SPECIFIC DAYS THIS MONTH
BE SURE TO CLICK ON EACH SCENE BELOW FOR A FULL IMAGE.
August 1 – EVENING – Over the next few days, the Moon will pass the beautiful ringed planet Saturn. This will make it easy to find the planet
August 2 – EVENING – Tonight Saturn is just to the lower left of the Moon.
August 3 – EVENING – Tonight Saturn is to the lower right of the Moon.
August 4 – EVENING – The Moon is now well past Saturn on its way around the Earth. See August 1-3 above to see the Moon’s motion from day to day.
August 7 – EVENING – Full Moon occurs at 2:11 p.m. EDT. The Moon is now half way around the Earth in its orbit. The Earth is between the Moon and the Sun so we see the Moon fully lit. We now see the Moon opposite the Sun in the sky, so as the Sun sets, the Moon rises.
If you live in Europe, Africa, Asia or Australia you’ll see a partial eclipse of the Moon tonight. About 25% of the Moon will pass through the edge of the Earth’s inner, dark shadow. The Moon enters the darkest part of the shadow at 17h22m UTC. Mid-eclipse is at 18h20m UTC. The eclipse ends at 19h19m UTC. UTC is Coordinated Universal Time. To determine how many hours your local time differs from UTC, go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_UTC_time_offsets
August 12 – MORNING –The Perseid Meteor Shower peaks today. Unfortunately, this will not be the best year for this reliable shower because the Moon will be in the sky and its light will block out many of the fainter meteors.
This means you may see 15-30 meteors per hour this year. Still, that’s worth seeing. The best time to look is during the early morning hours at which time the Earth is more directly moving into the meteor debris.
So, get out under the stars and enjoy the show!
August 14 – EVENING – Last Quarter Moon occurs at 9:15 p.m. EDT. The Moon is three-quarters of the way around the Earth now. It appears half lit in the early morning sky; the lighted side always faces the Sun.
August 16 – MORNING – The bright reddish star to the upper right of the Moon this morning is called Aldebaran. Aldebaran is known as the fiery eye of Taurus the Bull.
Watch over the next couple mornings as the Moon gets closer to the bright planet Venus.
August 19 – MORNING – A really pretty little crescent Moon is just below brilliant Venus this morning.
August 21 – SOLAR ECLIPSE DAY – A total eclipse of the Sun will occur along a narrow path that stretches across the United States. All of the rest of North America will see varying degrees of a partial solar eclipse.
There is a huge difference between “experiencing” a total eclipse, with the changes in the environment, and just seeing a partial eclipse. A total solar eclipse is a rare, and for some, a once-in-a-lifetime event. If at all possible, you should try to travel to the narrow path where the total eclipse will occur.
For everything you need to know about the eclipse and how to see it, go to http://www.beckstromobservatory.com/solar-eclipse-aug-21-2017/
August 24 – EVENING – Check out the pretty grouping of a little crescent Moon, the giant planet Jupiter, and the bright star Spica.
August 25 – EVENING – Tonight the Moon, Jupiter and Spica form an interesting triangle after sunset. See August 24 above.
EVENING – The Moon makes a second appearance with Saturn this month. Tonight with Saturn to the lower left of the Moon.
August 30 – EVENING – The Moon, Saturn and the bright star Antares form a line in the south this evening.