Saturn can be seen to the east before the first light of dawn, with the red star Aldebaran to its upper right. Saturn and the crescent moon make a nice pair the morning of Aug. 5. The rings of Saturn are nicely tilted (26 degrees) for viewing in a telescope.
Venus dominates the western sky at dusk in August. It is easily the brightest planet or star in the sky. Don't miss our sister planet with the crescent moon the evening of Aug. 11. Venus moves quite close to the star Spica from Aug. 29 to Sept. 3. Binoculars will enhance your viewing.
Mercury is easily seen in the west at dusk to the far lower right of Venus. The elusive, tiny planet can be found to the lower left of a thin crescent moon on Aug. 9 and to the lower right of the crescent moon of Aug. 10.
Jupiter can be found low in twilight of the east-northeast on about Aug. 4 and will rise a little higher each morning. We can find Jupiter directly below a very thin crescent moon on Aug. 7, and above the moon are Pollux and Castor in Gemini. Toward the end of the month, the Beehive star cluster will be to the lower left of Jupiter.
The Perseid meteor shower can be seen in the early evening of Aug. 11. The best time for viewing is after midnight the mornings of Aug. 12 and 13, when one can look toward the northeast to the right of the Big Dipper, where the meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Perseus. If you can get away from city lights to where the sky is dark, you may be able to see more than 50 meteors per hour. This is one of the year's two best, reliable meteors showers.
At the Planetariums
St. Petersburg College:
The planetarium at the St. Petersburg campus, 5th Avenue N and 69th Street N, is closed through August and will reopen in September. Call (727) 341-4320 for information.
The IMAX theater is showing Space Station and Australia: Land Beyond Time. The planetarium continues with More Than Meets the Eye and The Little Star that Could for junior astronomers.
The astronomy club (M.A.R.S.) offers free telescope viewing at dusk on Aug. 17, weather permitting. Call (813) 987-6100 for information.
1st _ Look for Venus low in the west after sunset. Last quarter moon. Neptune is opposite the sun in the sky at opposition.
5th _ Look for Saturn to the upper right of the crescent moon before sunrise in the east.
7th _ Low in the east-northeast an hour before sunrise a very thin crescent moon is directly above Jupiter.
8th _ New moon.
9th _ Very low in the west at dusk, Mercury is to the lower left of a thin crescent moon. Brilliant Venus is to the left of them.
10th _ Mars in conjunction, on the other side of the sun. Moon is nearest us (perigee) at 22,512 miles.
11th _ As the sky darkens we find brilliant Venus to the low left of the crescent moon in the western sky. After 10 p.m. into the wee hours of the morning is the best time to observe the Perseid meteor shower.
15th _ First quarter moon.
16th _ After sunset the constellation Scorpius is prominent in the south.
17th _ MOSI sky watch at dusk, if sky is clear.
19th _ Uranus in opposition.
22nd _ Full moon this month is called the Grain or Green Corn moon. Venus at greatest angular distance (elongation) from the sun in the evening sky and shows half phase in a telescope.
26th _ The moon is farthest from the Earth at 252,087 miles.
29-31st _ Venus and the star Spica are very close at dusk, low in the west-southwest.
30th _ Last quarter moon.
31st _ Venus and Spica are less than a degree apart.
Daryl L. Schrader is an astronomy and mathematics professor at St. Petersburg College and teaches astronomy at the University of South Florida.