What's in the night sky from 8 to 14 August?



Chris Bramley Hello and welcome to Star Diary, the podcast from 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 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 8th to 14th of August. I'm Ezzy Pearson, the magazine's features editor, and I'm joined on the podcast today by reviews editor Paul Money. Hello, Paul.

Paul Hello, Ezzy. Looking forward to this lot.

Ezzy Is there something to look forward to this month? Why don't you tell us all about what's coming up this week?

Paul Well, this week, it makes a nice change this. We're Actually going to start with the evening sky. I know! It's a shock, We are normally dealing with morning, and that's because the planets are mainly in the morning sky, but not always Now. We're getting closer to having some of them in the evening sky. So we're in the evening sky at the moment, and the moon is the dominant thing. We always observe the Moon. There's lots of times when the Moon is close to various objects. We start the week on the 8th, and the Moon is in Sagittarius itself and it lies above Gamma Sagittarii So, you know, that's a nice way of finding it. If you see a bright star below the Moon, that's that particular star. Should we sometimes have identifying a constellation and recognising the pattern of the stars when you see the Moon next to a particular star. And in fact, the next evening, the 9th it's to the left of Tau Sagittarii. So, you know, again, another one, there's a nice grouping of stars. I mean, Sagittarius always looks like a teapot. So and the way we're looking at it, if we're looking around about 11:00, it actually slightly tilted as if it's actually beginning to pour out. All we need is a cup in the sort of south east

Ezzy There is a reason they call it The Teapot asterism.

Paul Yes. Pity, we haven't got an asterism of a cup next to it. But we have got a teaspoon which actually on the ninth is a above Tau, and higher up sort of thing. So we feel... It's a bit of a nice... I always think is about to put the tea bag in the teapot. Sorry, that's my view because you won't put sugar in the teapot, which is all. But you put a tea bag that the actual tea itself, if you are a traditionalist, and like the actual tea, not in a bag I can't stand all the messing about with, so the bag for me sort of thing. So the moon though, is gradually moving over now, and sometimes you find it takes at least two days to cross a constellation. I mean, Virgo, it takes three. And sometimes if it's at the very start of Virgo, it can actually take four days to actually cross the whole constellation. Some constellations are really big. So the 8th to 9th it crosses Sagittarius. On the 10th and 11th it's actually in Capricornus. Now on the 11th is interesting because in actual fact is getting closer to Saturn. Saturn? Saturn? We're talking about the evening sky. What's happened? We're Normally in the morning sky. Well, Saturn is so far across on that parade now, it is rising before midnight, well before. In fact its rising around about 9:30. So it's getting closer to being easier to see in the evening sky. We'll deal with Saturn shortly because there's a good reason for that. So we'll come back to that. But full moon is the lower right of Saturn. That actually occurs... Sorry. Yes, just to the lower right. The thing about this is that the full moon technically occurs in the early hours of 12th, but on the night of11th, it's actually the moon will look. So, I mean, to the naked eye, it's very difficult either side of full moon and it can look full for two nights running. Because to the naked eye you don't get that resolution to actually see there's a very subtle hint of a little bit darkness still left on the actual limb. So actually on the 11th, it's above Zeta Capricorni and to the lower right of Saturn. But by the time you get into the early hours of the morning, what you find is the moon is actually below Saturn sort of thing. But that's in the early hours of the morning itself on 12th. So there we go. So if you always staying out, you'll be able to see the motion of the Moon as it moves across and ends up being under Saturn itself. Now, the 14th, we've got to talk about the 14th. And the reason we've got to talk about the 14th is that usually the 13th into the 14th, around about this time, 12th, 13th, 14th. We're all getting excited about the Perseids. The meteor shower is arguably one of the best. Some would argue the Geminids are the best meteor shower, but it's cold and that's later in the year when it's cold. But this is the Perseids in the summer.

Ezzy It does usually depend on what the Moon is deciding to do about which one of those two is better.

Paul And this is where we have the conundrum, because we just mentioned Full Moon is on the 12th. So the Perseids peak in the early hours of the 13th. So the moon is right in the way. So this is a really bad apparition for the Perseids this year. It's a shame. I would say, though, don't give up because there are some bright Perseids so you know you won't have the rights. I mean, I bet there'll be a lot of media outlets saying, "Oh, look out for the Perseids as a hundred plus, 120 per hour", and they'll have completely forgotten there's a virtually full moon up there. But we don't, we're astronomers aren't we Ezzy, we know better. But but it doesn't mean to say it can be a complete washout. So it is well worth keeping an eye. The the actual radiant is over in the north east after midnight and it rises high, so it improves your chances. So you need to look about 45 degrees away from that. And ideally, if you can hide the moon and remember the moon will be over in the southeast and then just hide the moon behind the building or anything that can hide it just to shield yourself from the brightness. You might see some of the very brightest of the Perseids themselves. So it's not a complete washout. But obviously, as the moon gets out of the way, although the peak is on the 12th, 13th, the people often forget it's spread over about a week and a half to two weeks. So, you know, you can get Perseids later on in that week. So keep looking.

Ezzy I always think it's worth giving it a go anyway, even when the moon is full, because I've seen meteors, several meteors from a meteor shower in the middle of a completely light polluted city when there was a full moon. And you can still see some. It just means you have to wait out a little bit longer. You might not get as many as you would like to see. But you know, again, as we always say on this thing, it's a challenge.

Paul It is. And it's well worth having a bit of patience for these souls because, as, say, you know, you are battling against the light skies, but it's well worth trying just in case.

Ezzy And even if you don't get to see any, you do always get to have a look at the moon. So.

Paul Yes, yes, exactly. Yes, exactly. Sort of thing is always something to look at, isn't there? On the 14th the Moon will have moved over and it will in actual fact form a triangle with Jupiter and Neptune. Now this is in the again shock evening sky. This is 11:00 so it is quite late. But Jupiter is now in the evening sky. So it is getting back to view. So on the 14th we have the Moon forming a nice triangle. We Jupiter, Neptune. And bear in mind, Neptune will need an instrument to view either large binoculars or a small telescope. But it gives you an idea because its almost equally spaced between them for below the actual two planets. So it's a nice of the even triangle. So you can use that as a guide to finding Neptune. But Jupiter is in the evening sky. So again, we've got Jupiter, we've got Saturn, we've got Neptune, we've got the minor world Vesta as well in the evening sky now. So they are improving. So it won't be too long, you know, give it a month or two, sort of thing when we start talking about them in the evening sky. So these are obviously great. So this is the 14th August, staying with 14th and the evening sky. Keep an eye on Saturn because 14th, it's Saturn time! And that's because Saturn's at opposition. Now, opposition is when a planet rises as the sun sets and sets as the sun rises. In other words, it's opposite the sun in the sky. And this means it's the transition from the morning sky into the evening sky. This is why Saturn is becoming a better placed to observe, and from now on it will be rising in the evening sky and it'll gradually get better placed for it to observe in a nice, convenient time instead of the early hours of the morning. So this is our position on 14th. So 11:00, look out for Saturn. It forms a nice triangle, in actual fact, with Delta and Gamma, Capricorni, and it's been moving past them. And so, again, if you like, motions of the planets, although Saturn has been doing it very slowly over the last month or so, and it's worth keeping an eye on this. So we end the week really on our on a real high with Saturn opposition and as is higher in Capricornus those of us who are bemoaning the fact that it took ages to pass through Sagittarius one was very low and very poorly seen. Now it is beginning to improve both visually and for those who like to image it as well. So things are on the rise for Saturn and it's the opposition on the actual 14th August. There we go.

Ezzy Does definitely sound like the 14th August is going to be a date for your diaries. Lots of things going on then and you might even see a couple of Perseids s well at that time. So, yes, I hope some of our listeners will be able to get out there and see Saturn, maybe take some images if you do going forward from now on, please do let us know over at www.skyatnightmagazine.com. We have all the details of how you can submit those to us and potentially have them appear in the magazine. We always love to see your images. So thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us about that today, Paul.

Paul It's a pleasure. I'm really excited about Saturn. It is a lovely planet, isn't it?

Ezzy It's one of those ones that they always try and get Saturn in whenever you're a star party or, you know, a sidewalk astronomy event, because it is just such a lovely thing to say. Those rings, or ears depending on what quality instrument you're looking through, but it's absolutely beautiful. So hopefully some of you will be able to get to see it.

Ezzy 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 where we have a 16 page pull out 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 Magazine. Goodbye.


Chris Bramley Thank you for listening to this episode of the Star Diary podcast from the makers of BBC Sky at Night Magazine. For more of our podcasts, visit our website at 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.