Lunar and planetary spectacles fill the starry skies this week, alongside the chance of auroras and shooting stars.
Perseids trickle. Late night on Monday, look for stragglers from the Perseids meteor shower. While it peaked a week ago, the shooting stars will continue to fly until August 24.
According to the international observing reports, the Perseids topped out at about 65 meteors per hour in the early morning hours of August 13, which is more modest than other years. This week, astronomers expect to see as many as a dozen meteors per hour during peak shower time—between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m.—each and every morning blessed with clear skies.
Helping you make the most of what remains of the Perseids, the moon will be in its waning crescent phase, much better than the glare of the full moon last week.
Aurora alert. Also be on the lookout for northern lights starting after nightfall on Monday and toward midnight. According to spaceweather.com, a weak coronal mass ejection—a fast-moving cloud of charged particles expelled from the sun—will slam into Earth’s magnetic field later that day. NOAA forecasters are predicting a 30 percent chance of a geomagnetic storm, particularly for high latitudes.
For the best chance of seeing auroras, find a spot in a dark location away from city lights and face the northern sky. Look for ghostly green glows to appear near the horizon. And don’t forget to cross your fingers!
Moon visits Aldebaran. If you managed to stay up for the Perseids, then why not check out the moon parked near the bright orange star Aldebaran? The lunar rendezvous will come to pass just before local dawn on Tuesday, August 19.
The waning crescent moon will be to the lower right of the 66-light-year-distant red giant that marks the eye of the constellation of Taurus, the bull.
The cosmic pair will be appear separated by about 8 degrees, a bit less than the width of your fist held at arm’s length.
Beehive buzzes planets. And if you missed the close conjunction on Monday morning between Venus and Jupiter, it’s not too late. The planetary duo will appear only 1 degree apart on Tuesday and 2 degrees apart on Wednesday, August 20.
Look to the upper left of fainter Jupiter for the Beehive star cluster (Messier 44). Best seen about an hour to half hour before sunrise, binoculars and telescopes will help cut through the glow of the approaching dawn. Sitting some 610 light-years away, the Beehive consists of about 1,000 stars stretching across some 24 light-years of space.
Worlds align. Early bird sky-watchers heading outside at dawn on Friday, August 22, and looking toward the low southeast can catch the moon form a beautiful lineup with Venus and Jupiter.
Celestial triangle. By the next morning, Saturday, August 23, the waning crescent moon will sink to just below the planetary pairing. Best seen with binoculars, the triangular pattern will span some 8 degrees, filling your field of view.