Evening Planets — Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune
Jupiter dominates the evening sky. Look to the south as the sky darkens tonight to spot a bright “star.” That’s Jupiter. Telescope observers can enjoy the nightly movement of the four large Galilean moons as well as hunt for the Great Red Spot.
Saturn also rises before the sun sets and is visible in the southeast as twilight fades. The ringed world is hiding below the “teaspoon“ asterism of Sagittarius. Best views of the moons and rings tonight occur after 11 p.m., but by September Saturn is well placed by 9 p.m.
Neptune will rise in the east southeast by 10:30 p.m. tonight. Neptune is too dim to be spotted with the unaided eye at magnitude 7.8. A small telescope will reveal this world tucked amid the stars of Aquarius. Each night Neptune creeps a bit closer to the fourth magnitude star Phi Aquarii. By month’s close, Neptune will be visible as the sky darkens and just to the left of Phi.
Late Night Planet — Uranus
Uranus follows Neptune into the night sky just after midnight as August opens. By September, Uranus will appear in the east a bit before 10 p.m. Modest binoculars and a good star chart will help to find Uranus (magnitude 5.8) in Aries, not far above the Cetus border. Uranus will languish in southern Aries until 2024.
Dawn Planets — Mars, Venus and Mercury
Venus and Mars are lost in the in the glare of the rising sun.
Mercury makes a dash into the predawn skies. The best mornings to spot Mercury in the dawn twilight are Aug. 8 to 12. Look toward the east-southeast at about 5:30 a.m. to spot a bright “star” below Gemini’s Pollux and Castor. That’s Mercury.
By Aug. 23, Mercury will begin to slip into the bright twilight dawn. Mercury and Venus will reappear in the evening twilight next month.
Morgan Observatory at U.C.C. (PMO) — two events in August
Come to the Morgan Observatory after the Umpqua Astronomers meeting on Aug. 13 at approximately 8:30 p.m. to observe Jupiter, Saturn and the very bright Moon. Observatory observing will begin about 9:15 p.m. and conclude by 10:15 p.m.
The next public night at the observatory is Aug. 24, hosted by the local astronomers at 8:45 p.m. with the observatory opening at 9:15 p.m. The observatory will show star clusters and nebula of the late summer.
These events are free. Limited parking is available at the Tower Building near the observatory. Space inside the observatory is limited and handicap access is available. Go to the observatory www.umpqua.edu/observatory for details.
Summer Meteor Showers
The annual Delta Aquariids meteors will zip across the skies tomorrow morning. Find a spot away from city lights to watch 15 to 20 mainly faint swift meteors streak across predawn skies.
Best counts will occur after 2 a.m. on July 30 but good counts should be seen from July 29 to Aug. 1. This year the Deltas will rival the famous Perseid’s.
The most famous summer meteor shower, the Perseid’s of August, will be compromised by a nearly full moon, dramatically lowering meteor counts. The classic peak of the Perseid’s is the night of Aug. 12/morning Aug. 13.
The nearly full moon will blot out most of the showers meteors. Expected counts on the morning on Aug. 12 will be 10 to 12 per hour. A better strategy may be to look on the mornings of Aug. 8 or 9 after 2 a.m. to see up to 20 meteors per hour.
A far cry from the 90 or so typical peak rate on August 12. The Perseid’s will return to glory in August 2020 and even better in August 2021.
Umpqua Astronomers Meeting — Aug. 13, 2019
Come at 7 p.m. Aug. 13 to U.C.C. Wayne Crooch Hall Room 10 for the Umpqua Astronomers August meeting.
Anyone wanting a Q & A session about astronomy, telescopes or general star gazing information, please come at 6:30 p.m. Club news, monthly sky events and astronomy news will be presented at the monthly meeting. Summer star gazing for August will be discussed. Everyone interested in astronomy is welcome.
After the meeting, if skies are clear, join local astronomers for an observing session at the Morgan Observatory at about 8:30 p.m.