August Sky and Space Station
By Chuck McPartlin
August Sky Sights
Mercury, Venus, and Mars are hanging out low in the western sunset sky in early August, but only bright Venus will be easily visible. Saturn and Jupiter are well placed for viewing by 11 PM all month. Saturn is at opposition, rising as the Sun sets, on August 1, and Jupiter is at opposition on August 19. Uranus and Neptune are still mainly denizens of the early morning sky.
At sunset on Tuesday, August 10, look for Venus close to a thin crescent Moon, with its dark side dimly illuminated by Earthshine, light that has reflected off clouds in the Earth's atmosphere only to be reflected back to us by the Moon.
The annual Perseid Meteor Shower, pieces of Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle hitting our atmosphere at 37 miles per second, peaks at noon PDT on Thursday, August 12. That makes the best viewing time for us between 2 AM and dawn on the morning of August 12, but the nights of August 11 and August 13 should also show decent activity. The radiant point in Perseus is up by 9 PM, so early viewers may catch an occasional spectacular grazer.
On Sunday, August 22, the Full Moon may be considered True Blue. It meets the original definition of a Blue Moon as the third Full Moon in a season that has four Full Moons. Since 1946, the second Full Moon in a calendar month has been termed a Blue Moon, a much more frequent occurrence.
The International Space Station will be making some visible evening passes through our skies from August 1 to August 6, and predawn passes from August 21 through August 30. Its orbit may change from time to time, so to get the latest and most complete predictions, visit Heavens Above.
There are likely to be orbit changes of the ISS to dock with the new Russian Nauka module, but here are the currently predicted evening passes.
On Sunday, August 1, the ISS will rise at 9:13 PM PDT in the NW, pass through the front legs of Ursa Major, by Polaris, along Cepheus, near Deneb, the tail of Cygnus, and enter the Earth's shadow in the E at 9:17 PM as it nears Enif, the nose of Pegasus.
Monday's first pass will start at 8:26 PM in the NNW, and be a longer and lower version of Sundays pass, going past Enif before fading out at 8:32 PM in the E. On its next orbit, it will appear at 10:03 PM in the WNW, pass over the hindquarters of Leo, then over Spica in Virgo, fading away in the WSW at 10:05 PM.
It will appear on Tuesday at 9:15 PM in the WNW to pass over Leo, below orange Arcturus, and through Ophiuchus to set near the lid of the Teapot in Sagittarius in the SSE at 9:20 PM.
The brightest pass will be on Wednesday, starting in the NW at 8:28 PM, passing through the bowl of the Big Dipper asterism, then high overhead, nicking a corner of the Keystone in Hercules, and setting between the tail of Aquila and Saturn at 8:35 PM in the SE.
On Thursday, the station will rise at 9:19 PM in the W, and pass low above Venus, below Spica, and set at 9:22 PM in the SSW in Lupus, beneath bright red Antares, the heart of Scorpius.
Friday's pass will start in the WNW at 8:31 PM and be a higher version of Thursday's pass, setting under the stinger of Scorpius at 8:36 PM in the S.