What’s in the sky for August 2020 and beyond – Ian Bradley

Astronomy weather forecast sites

These are customizable to your location – the links below are set to Kendal

Nice resources

ISS visible passes

No ISS passes visible in August until August 27th.

If you want to see the ISS, I suggest you look at Heavens Above website. Heavens Above will also tell you about other satellites.

The Moon

Phase August September
Full Moon 3rd 1st
3rd Quarter 11th 9th
New Moon 19th 17th
1st Quarter 25th 25th

The Planets

Venus is visible in the eastern sky at dawn. It reaches greatest western elongation [i.e. it is west of the Sun so rises earlier] on August 13th when it be very obvious and bright, magnitude -4.3. Nice half phase at dawn on August 12th.

Mars is becoming better placed. It rises about 22:30 BST in mid-August and transits about 05:00 BST when it is high in the sky with an altitude of 40 degrees. In addition, Mars and the Moon make a close approach, an appulse, on 9th August. At 00:30 on the 9th, Mars (rising about 23:00 on the 8th August) will be about 4° east of the Moon. By 5am it will be 3° NE of the Moon. Sadly, closest approach of 1° occurs at 10:45 during the day.

Jupiter/Saturn are both quite close together in the sky although always at a low altitude. They are easy to spot as Jupiter will be the bright non-starlike object on the southern horizon. At magnitude -2.4, Jupiter is considerably brighter than Saturn at magnitude 0.3. In early August they are 8° apart (16 Moon diameters) and transit around midnight, but they are only about 13° above the horizon. As the ecliptic is at a low angle to the horizon in summer, even at 22:00 BST they are both over 10° above the horizon, so well worth a look if you have a good southern horizon.

Jupiter has a close approach to the Moon, another appulse, on August 29th @ 03:43 when they will be separated by 2°. The following evening, the Moon passes 3° from Saturn with closest approach at 23:16.

Uranus is visible throughout the night from August, when it rises around 2300 BST, and transits about 0600.

Comets

Comet C/2020 F3 Neowise put on a great show with a clear naked eye tail. It has faded considerably in the past week and now a telescope is probably required.

Meteor Showers

Perseids meteor shower – peak August 12 but active from active from 17 July to 24 August. Usually one of the better meteor showers to observe, producing up to 60 – 100 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by comet Swift-Tuttle. Visible throughout the night but probably best just before dawn on the 12th. The shower tends to have a large number of fast bright meteors, some leaving persistent trails. Again, we have a 3rd quarter moon rising about 23:30 BST to contend with, but the Perseids are so bright and numerous that it will still be a good show.

Sky Charts

The charts are for the mid-August at 2100 BST.

Looking up, [below] south is at the bottom.

Dominated by the asterism of the Summer Triangle and the Milky Way. Although very prominent on the charts, the Milky Way will be easier to see clearly later in the year with darker skies. New Moon on the 19th gives a good photo opportunity. The three stars of the Summer Triangle are good for getting your bearings.

Lots of Messier objects to see:
  • the planetary nebula M57, the Ring Nebula, in Lyra which appears as a fuzzy green doughnut in the eyepiece.
  • Globular clusters: M3, M13
  • Galaxies: M51, M101, M31
  • Just less than 2° from Vega is The Double-Double, Epsilon (e) Lyrae, a binary star in binoculars, but with a telescope, each of these two stars is seen to be a double star itself.


Click the image for a full-page view.

Looking south

The galactic centre in Sagittarius is visible if you’ve a good southern horizon. Great photo opportunity around new Moon, August 19th.

  • Messier objects: globular clusters M10 and M12
  • Clusters: Eagle Nebula M16, M11
  • Galaxies: M51, M101, M31
  • Planetary nebula: M27 The Dumbbell Nebula


Click the image for a full-page view.

Looking east

The Milky Way, and its luxurious star fields and clusters, runs right through Cassiopeia, Cygnus and Aquilla. The open cluster M52 in Cassiopeia is a nice binocular object. Lower down are two globular clusters, M15 and M2.


Click the image for a full-page view.

Looking west

Might be worth trying for M81 and M82 in addition to M51. Comet Neowise has faded but is a telescopic object. On August 6th it is less than 0.5° from globular cluster M53.By August 20th, Neowise is only 10° above the horizon at 22:00 setting at 23:38, so I guess we will certainly have lost it by then.


Click the image for a full-page view.

Looking north

Still rather bright in this direction as the Sun isn’t that far below the horizon. The Andromeda Galaxy M31 clearly visible in binoculars. The star clouds of the Milky Way are ‘busy’. The Triangulum Galaxy M33 is still rather low early in the evening.


Click the image for a full-page view.


Next Observing Evening

Given the current situation regarding coronavirus, observing evenings can not occur.