At last the skies are dark again! On Sunday morning at about 1am, 3rd August, the Sun dips 18º below the horizon and true astronomical darkness returns. As the nights begin to get longer, and properly dark, the astrophotography opportunities abound. Happy times!
What’s to be seen in the night sky this month?
First up, another “super-Moon” on the 10th, when the full Moon will occur at the same time as the Moon’s closest approach to Earth. The Moon’s orbit is not quite circular, so it cycles closer and then further away. This month its closest approach or “perigee” will happen at the same time as the Moon is full, and will also be the closest lunar perigee this year. As a result, the Moon will appear about 10% larger than normal as it rises in the south east.
The annual Perseids meteor shower straddles July to August, with its peak between the 10th and 13th of August. You will have noticed that the 10th is also the night of the super-Moon, so it might be better to leave meteor hunting for the 11th 12th or 13th.
Find the constellation of Perseus in the north eastern sky from about 11pm, just below the unmistakeable “W” of Casseopeia. The Moon will intervene throughout this year’s Perseids, but on a clear night it will still be worth while. Here’s one I caught last year, under a semi-cloudy sky…
Moon and Saturn
On Sunday evening, 31st August, about an hour after sunset, the crescent Moon will also be setting in the west. Only one Moon’s diameter away from the crescent Moon will be the planet Saturn, also shining brightly enough to be visible. Worth a stroll out to Scout Scar, I reckon.