Although the moon may challenge sky-watchers’ views of shooting stars, it will join the seventh planet from the sun while bright worlds appear to pair together in the heavens.
Mars and Saturn. After dusk on Monday, August 11, look for orange-hued Mars to be sitting to the far west of the yellowish ringed planet. The cosmic pair will appear separated by some 8 degrees—a little wider than the width of your fist at arm’s length—in the low southwest at dusk.
But this sky show will only get better, so keep an eye on the red planet as it closes ranks with Saturn in the coming weeks.
Perseids peak. The iconic August meteor shower peaks late Tuesday, August 12, and into the pre-dawn hours of August 13. With the bright glare of the recent supermoon blocking out all but the brightest meteors, sky-watchers should expect a somewhat muted sky show, compared with other years.
But in a dark location away from city lights, with your back turned to the moon, you can expect to see at least one shooting star every few minutes. Check out our Perseids viewer’s guide here.
Moon and Uranus. After nightfall on Thursday, August 14, the waning gibbous moon will appear to park itself near the planet Uranus. For sky-watchers in the Eastern Hemisphere, the pair will be separated by about 1 degree—equal to the width of your small finger held at arm’s length.
While the green giant is technically a naked-eye planet from very dark skies at magnitude 5.8, using binoculars or a small telescope will be your best bet for spotting it. Look for a tiny blue-green disk to the upper right of the moon.
Sitting at 1.8 billion miles (2.9 billion kilometers) away, Uranus is so far away that the sunlight bouncing off its clouds takes 161 minutes to travel to Earth for us to see it.
Venus and Jupiter. If you thought Mars and Saturn make a pretty pair, then check out Venus and Jupiter on Saturday, August 16. You can’t miss this brilliant pair of early morning beacons rising low in the southeast at dawn.
The two most brilliant planets in the sky are heading for their closest encounter on Monday, August 18, but why wait until then to catch sight of them?
While the two planets may appear close, it’s amazing to think that Venus lies 13 light-minutes away, while the king of all planets sits a whopping 52 light-minutes from Earth.
Vega at zenith. For sky-watchers in the mid-northern latitudes, the bright summer star Vega will appear straight overhead (at zenith) on Sunday, August 16, around 10 to 11 p.m. local time.
Steely blue-white Vega is 25 light-years from Earth and is one of the brightest stars in the entire sky. It marks one of the corners of the Summer Triangle, made up of the stars Vega, Altair, and Deneb.