Three spectacular astronomical events are slated to take place this month. The first celestial event will occur in the early evening twilight on Friday, August 9. Look about 10 degrees above the western horizon about 9:00 P.M. You will see a thin crescent Moon about 5 degrees to the lower left of the planet Venus.
Remember, if you hold your fist out at arm’s length, the distance between the lower and upper part of your fist measures about 10 degrees.
Through a telescope, the planet Venus will appear like a ¾ Moon (gibbous). At this time, Venus will be approximately 100 million miles from the Earth.
Three days later, in the early evening of Monday, August 12, the nearly first quarter Moon will pass only about 3 degrees below the planet Saturn. Look about 15 degrees above the horizon about 9:30 P.M. to view this event.
A small telescope with a magnification of 35 times or more will reveal Saturn’s magnificent ring system. Currently, Saturn is about 935 million miles from the Earth. About 7 degrees to the lower right of the Moon is the bright star Spica in the constellation of Virgo.
In addition, the Perseid meteor shower is currently in progress. The day of peak rate will occur in the early morning hours of August 12. For best results, drive out in the country away from city lights so that you can see more meteors. Look in the northeastern sky about 4:00 A.M., and you might see as many as 75 meteors (shooting stars) per hour. The Moon will not interfere with the viewing of this meteor shower as it will have set several hours earlier.
Even if it is cloudy on the day of peak rate for this meteor shower, you can still observe it several days before or after August 12, but don’t expect as many meteors per hour.
The Perseid meteor shower appears to radiate from the constellation of Perseus.