What's in the night sky in the week of 29th August to 4th September, 2022.



Chris Bramley [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to Star Diary, the podcast for the makers of BBC Sky at Night Magazine. You can subscribe to the print edition of the magazine by visiting skyatnightmagazine.com, or to our digital edition by visiting iTunes or Google Play.

Ezzy Pearson [00:00:25] Greetings listeners and welcome to Star Diary, a weekly guide to the best things to see in the northern hemisphere's night sky. In this episode, we'll be covering the coming week from the 29th of August to the 4th of September. I'm Ezzy Pearson, the magazine's features editor, and I'm joined on the podcast today by our reviews editor, Paul Money. Hello, Paul.

Paul Money [00:00:45] Hello, Ezzy. Hey, this is going to be a good week.

Ezzy [00:00:48] Oh, is it great? So let us know. Why is it going to be such a good week? What's your recommendations for the week?

Paul [00:00:54] Well, one of the things I like is that sometimes we have weeks whereby we feel as though it's all in the morning or it's all in the evening. This week we've got a mixture of both. It makes a nice change, doesn't it? But very often it's because of the Moon. So we're following the Moon as it passes certain items. But sometimes you get other events taking place as well. So we're going to start, as you say, on August the 29th. Now, this is a challenge because... There's two challenges. First of all, it is a really slim crescent moon, low down in the western evening, twilight roughly about 8:20. You've got to bear in mind that, you know, depending on your location, that time will slightly vary as to the best time to see it. And the reason I mention that is that there's not just a slim crescent moon, five degrees below it or, not quite six degrees is Mercury. Now, unfortunately, Mercury, when it's this time of year and it's an evening apparition, it's usually a pretty awful apparition, it's very low in the horizon. So whether you will see Mercury is a big question. I would use binoculars, but the one thing I won't say, because it's in the evening, twilight, and is not too long after the Sun has set, you must make sure the sun is out of the way. So if it means you miss Mercury this time I'll get the crescent Moon. The crescent moon is well worth seeing, and the Moon will have Earthshine with it as well. So as I say that's almost due west right over in the western sky. So once of the sun's set, that is always the golden rule, isn't it? Make sure the sun is out of the way, then have a search. See if you can see the crescent moon. And I say around about... Sort of thing. I've got it from around about 8:15 to 8:20. You might get a glimpse of Mercury as well. But as I say, this is a really poor apparition of Mercury in the evening sky. But I like challenges. I mean, you know, life is all about challenges, isn't it? So, you know, this is one of those where it's worth having a go. I think you'll definitely get the crescent moon. Yeah. I mean, that's always ephemeral isn't it? This ghostly sliver of light little thing. So, you know, so that's worth getting. So if you don't get Mercury, you should get the moon anyway. So there we are. So that's that's the 29th. We go on to the 30th. It's the morning sky. Yet we've flipped straight back to the morning, but it's the next morning. And you want to be looking around about 4 a.m. as such when it's still dark. If you leave a bit later, you'll get the twilight sky, which is quite pretty, I have to say, you know, the planets and the the remaining bright stars and to come to have their own sort of allure as well. But Mars lies between the Pleiades, Messier 45, and the Hyades and Aldebaran. It's a bit closer to the Hyades than Aldebaran, but it's almost in a line. And I love lineups like that. You know, when you got prominent objects.

Ezzy [00:03:43] I'm sure our regular listeners know how much you like your line up. But it's, you know, it's always a good excuse to look at these things that move through the night sky.

Paul [00:03:50] Exactly. And there's one of the things that... I mean, a lot of the time, these planets are moving against a fairly drab backdrop of faint stars. So when they get passing between two major clusters... Messier 45, and of course, the Hyades with the red eye of the bull Aldebaran staring at you as well. So it's it's always eye catching and actually makes an interesting sequence. So if you if you sort of like started last week, remember our conversation last week, it was approaching and going under the Pleiades. Well, of course, you can take a sequence of pictures showing Mars passing. I mean, it shows the motion of the Solar System against the backdrop of stars. So we've also got the bonus that Uranus is actually off to the right now as it's rising at 4:00am. That position means Uranus is off to the right, almost level with the Pleiades. Of course, that will gradually change as they rise higher into the sky. So we've also still got the planetary parade and Stuart in the September issue of the Sky Night magazine as he talks about the planetary parade and now we should say so make sure you get your issue out now. And actually we've got Saturn now that's moved into the sky because opposition was, you see, all the week. So we've got Saturn in the evening sky. We've also got Vesta. We've got Neptune and Jupiter up next. And then if you want to stay up until Twilight starts, you've got Venus rising at about 5 a.m., just at the start of morning twilight. So you haven't just got Mars passing between the Pleiades and the Hyades You've also got this planetary parade going on as well. So plenty to look out for and as I say, Stuart, covers it extremely well in the latest issue of the magazine. Now we can we swap back to the evening. Yes. Something more convenient, isn't it? Don't have to get for this one or set the alarms as such. I'm terrible like that. I really have to stay out because if I set an alarm, I'll just not the alarm off and go back to sleep. I'm lazy like that terrible astronomer.

Ezzy [00:05:54] When it's three or four in the morning, sometimes it is just easier to stay up.

Paul [00:05:59] It is, you know.

Ezzy [00:06:01] Is there necessarily as comfortable the next day, but...

Paul [00:06:03] No. Well, I mean, as we're recording this, I was out till four. Well, I got to bed at 4 a.m. My body was saying, you need to go to bed. Get to bed, you silly devil. But the views you get in the morning sky, the atmosphere is often a lot calmer and the views can be much more... They're more crystal clear, you know, it's the way the atmosphere settles down more. So it's gorgeous. But back to the evening sky and we've got a comet. Now, Comet Panstarrs. We've mentioned over the last few weeks he's been gradually dropping down from Ophiuchus towards Scorpius. And now 9:00 in the evening over in the southwest, Scorpius is a lovely Asterism. The main shape sort of thing expected. We can't see all of it from the UK because we lose the sting below. The horizon never rises for us. But the main body of the scorpion, I always think it's a great little asterism that is quite prominent. You've got Antares there, you've got a quite a curved line of stars to its right. And one of those in actual fact is Delta Scorpio, which is Deschuba. I never know whether you pronounce that Duschuba or if you're sneezing. He does sound a bit like that bull, but she's where it's great when you've got a faint object next to a bright naked eye star because the stars guide you to the object because we got Comet C 2017 K2 PANSTARRS. Now the current estimate will put it about magnitude +6.7, so it should be visible in binoculars and it'll be just to the right of the bright naked eye star, Deschuba, which itself is magnitude +2.3. So you can't mistake them. I mean, the star is a huge amount brighter than the comet and the comet is moving southward. So sadly, literally within the next couple of weeks it will be gone. So for Northern Hemisphere observers. So this is good time to get it. And if you haven't seen it so far, having a bright star guide you to it is absolutely perfect. So do get that. And I say that's on the evening of the 30th, August 30th. Now we switch back almost to the morning sky. It's midnight, the 31st into the 1st of September. So it's one of those things Mars has moved a little bit. So we know that because Mars is gradually moving to the left, is moving eastwards as we see it further to the east, we have the constellation Auriga. Now we often talk about how the meteors, we always talk about the zenith hourly rate. And often if it's very minor, we sort of infer that you shouldn't bother. And I think perhaps we're probably doing the the the meteor showers a disservice because as long as you're out there, if you're observing, you should look out because that night is the peak of the Aurigid's meteor shower. Now, the the actual rating is close to Delta Auriga itself and although the ZHR is only six, which that's the perfect condition, directly above the crystal clear black skies. No light pollution.

Ezzy [00:09:16] That is not a lot. That is not high.

Paul [00:09:19] But, the key is when you you know, the comet is associated.... sorry the meteor is associated with a particular shower because it radiates from that spot. So if you have a meteor, you could be out there at the right time and then see, say, a meteor flash pass Mars and then you realise you can track it back close to Delta Auriga. And if you can, even though you might only get that one, you'll have seen an Aurigid. So I sometimes think we should probably encourage a little bit more observation, not just of the major showers, some of the minor ones as well, because you never know if you're out there looking at Mars and Uranus and the parade of the planets, just keep an eye out for this one. It is a very minor shower, but as it's the peak and the Moon is a very slim crescent in the evening. So it's not going to cause problems, because this is around about midnight. So worth, trying you never know. And if you see you've added another meteor shower to your tally.

Ezzy [00:10:14] And if anybody happens to manage to catch a picture of it, of maybe one of the Aurigids going past Mars or the Pleiades or the Hyades, please do let us know. We always love to see them. For details of how to submit your images at www.skyatnightmagazine.com And that is on the 31st of August to the 1st of September. So Mark, that date in your diaries.

Paul [00:10:38] Is actually quite a sharp peak as well. So it really is you get it that night and that is probably it. Now drop into that following evening, September the first, we find our Moon. We mentioned it's a crescent, but it is directly below, really close to Alpha Libra, which is Zubinelgenubi. I always love these long names. And these are almost tongue twisters, a magnitude 2.7. It's a double star. So, you know, it's well worth looking at on its own anyway.

Ezzy [00:11:09] Mmhm.

Paul [00:11:09] Both will fit nicely in the view, but not because this is a moon and the actual star itself. So depending on the size of your binoculars, you might even see the actual star is double, which is worth having a look at. Now, the next night, the moon lies to the right of Comet PANSTARRS. And this is where the moon can be a bit of a hindrance because it's building up his phase now, so there's a lot more light. So with a faint comet on the moon quite close to it. Hmm... I don't know. That's why it's better to get the comet early than leaving it to later. And then of course, I say, within a couple of weeks we'll have lost the comet. Then on the 3rd of September, the first quarter, Moon will lie to the upper left of Ontario, which is the heart of the scorpion. So you'll get that comet whereby someone might notice in the evening sky and say, "What's that star below the Moon?" And for once, instead of saying, Hey, that's a planet, we'll be able to say yeah that's a genuine star is to the Red Star in Antares. So there we are. So that's a nicely in the evening sky. But I did mention that we will be flicking backwards and forwards into the morning sky. So let's end in the morning sky on September 4th. Now you want to be looking between 430 and 5 a.m., just as Twilight, starting. Now, Venus will be rising. I'm not going to talk about that. No. I want to draw your attention to something else, because as you see in Leo, we've got the dwarf planet, Ceres, the first asteroid to ever be discovered. Of course, it's been downgraded to this dwarf planet. Eight lies half a degree south of Galaxy, NGC 2903 in Leo, low towards the east northeast and Ceres is magnitude 8.7. Whilst the galaxy is magnitude 8.8, you'd think oh, there are tens of magnitude between them, they'd be easy. Now the galaxy is a diffuse object, so that 8.8 light is actually spread over a slightly larger area. It technically makes it look fainter. So the asteroid dwarf planet Ceres will actually be a point source. It will look like a dot and be slightly brighter than the galaxy. But it's a great opportunity for Astrophotographers and visual observers to see this minor world as it moves past this galaxy. And always like these galaxies, it's the galaxy Messier missed, because this galaxy is brighter than most of the messier objects in Leo. So it's just one of those things. But it wasn't in his zone where he was scanning to find it. If it had been he would have picked it up. So it's one of those things. Of course, if you don't manage to get that, there is Venus rising as well. Not always a glorious sight, but it's very low down and you will need a really clear, uncluttered horizon. We're often mentioning this unfortunately. Some of these things happen and you need a really good horizon. So, you know, it's well worth having it. So if you don't get the minor planet, dwarf planet Ceres, well, you've always got Venus to fall back on as well. Of course as long as it's clear. Because knowing our luck there'll be low haze because that's something that can cause a big problem. So there we are, around about 4:30 to 5. And you've got a minor planet. You've also got Venus as well, both in Leo. So there we are Ezzy, another great week.

Paul [00:15:28] It does sound like a great week.

Ezzy [00:15:31] So some highlights there, including Mars passing by the Hyades and the Pleiades on the 30th of August and moving onwards on to the 31st as well. So if you managed to get any good pictures, make sure that you send them in to us and hopefully we'll see you back here for next week. I'm going to do that last bit again. Yeah, it certainly does sound like there's some great things to see out there this week. I think my particular highlight is probably going to be trying to see Mars as it passes by the Pleiades and the Hyades, maybe even getting a meteor in there as well, which we happening on the August 31st. Hopefully our listeners have found something there that'll appeal to them and we hope to see you again next week.

Ezzy [00:16:12] If you want to find out even more spectacular sites that will be gracing the night sky throughout the month, be sure to pick up a copy of BBC Sky at Night Magazine. Well, we have a 16 page Pull Up Sky guide with a full overview of everything worth looking up for. Whether you like to look at the moon, the planets, or the deep sky, whether you use binoculars, telescopes or neither, our sky guide has got you covered with the detailed star charts to help you track your way across the night sky from all of us here at BBC Sky at Night Magazine. Goodbye.


Chris Bramley [00:16:41] Thank you for listening to this episode of The Start, our podcast from the makers of BBC Sky at Night Magazine. For more of our podcasts, visit our website at www.skyatnightmagazine.com or head to Acast, iTunes or Spotify.


Elizabeth Pearson
Ezzy PearsonScience journalist

Ezzy Pearson is the Features Editor of BBC Sky at Night Magazine. Her first book about the history of robotic planetary landers is out now from The History Press.