Your Night Sky for Aug. 5, 2020


The Summer Triangle

The full moon was on the Aug. 3, and the first quarter moon will be on Aug. 11. Then the new moon is on the 18th. So as this month progresses we'll have great night sky viewing. Remember that the Perseids peak on the morning of the 12th but will be visible for another two weeks after that even though there will be fewer meteors as the days progress.

The Delta Aquarid meteor shower peaked July 28, but they're still visible now. Like the Perseids, they're best viewed from midnight until dawn. What's different about them is that they stay active as long as they're visible. Of course, even at their peak there are only 10 per hour, but the further south you are, there will be a few more than that. Look for them more to the south while you're viewing the Perseids.

What's interesting about meteors is that they're no larger than a pea and can be smaller to the size of a grain of sand. They originate when a comet orbits the Sun. The solar heat turns solids into gas which leaves a debris trail. Then small pieces of debris from comets or asteroids are what make up the meteors. They heat up when they enter our atmosphere and create a streak of light across the night sky.

They enter our atmosphere at about 45,000 MPH, and this speed causes the air ahead to compress and heat up. Then they begin to vaporize and become a shooting star. The very bright ones are called fireballs. When our planet crosses that trail, the particles enter out atmosphere and a meteor shower occurs! If per chance the meteor is large enough to survive the encounter and land on Earth, it becomes a meteorite. That rarely happens.

This is also a good month for viewing bright planets. Jupiter and Saturn become visible in the SE after the Sun sets, and stay visible all night. They start in the SE and gradually move to the west. Mars is currently visible after midnight, but later this month will begin to rise a little earlier. By October it will outshine Jupiter.

Mercury is currently visible low in the NE in the morning. By mid-month it will become an evening planet after the Sun sets. Venus rises in the east about 2:45 AM this month. The moon will join Venus on the 15th.

The Summer Triangle shines high overhead this month. It's made of 3 bright stars from different constellations. The Milky Way passes through it, so when you see the Milky Way you can find the Summer Triangle. Deneb is part of Cygnus the Swan, Vega is part of Lyra the Harp, and Altair is part of Aquilla the Eagle. So look over head at the Milky Way and see of you can find it.

 

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