Find out what to go out and look at this month

Planets:

Mercury can be found throughout August low in the West in the early evening. It’ll move from the constellation Leo (The Lion) into the constellation of Virgo (The Virgin) during the second half of the month. On the 28th of August, it will reach its greatest elongation in the West and start its journey back towards the Sun’s glare. Venus is low in the northeast in the early morning it will be moving from the constellation of Gemini (The Twins) to the constellation of cancer during the second week of the month before it moves into the constellation of Leo.

Mars rises in the morning sky in the Northeast. It’ll move from the constellation of Aries (The Ram) into the constellation of Taurus (The Bull) during the second week of August. Jupiter can be found again this month in the constellation of Cetus (The Sea Monster) and will be visible in the late evening in the east. Saturn is in the evening sky in the constellation of Capricornus (The Sea-Goat). On the 15th of August at 01:00 AM (AWST), Saturn will reach its opposition and will be at its best viewing for us. Uranus is remarkably close to Mars in the eastern morning sky between the constellations of Aries and Taurus. On the 2nd and 3rd of August, they will be at the closest points to each other before continuing their journeys in the night sky. Neptune again is just up from Jupiter in between the constellation of Pisces (The Fish) and the constellation of Cetus.

Mercury on the 15/08/22 at 07:00 pm. Image Credit: Stellarium
Mercury's greatest elongation in the West on the evening of the 28/08/2022. Image Credit: Stellarium
Venus on the 15/08/22 at 06:00 am. Image Credit: Stellarium
Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune on the 15/08/22 at 6 am (AWST). Image Credit: Stellarium
Mars and Uranus on the 02/08/22 at 05:00 am. Image Credit: Stellarium
 
PlanetWhen It Rises Or Sets
MercuryAt the start of August, it sets at 06:52 am (AWST), and by the end of the month, it’ll set at 08:04 pm (AWST)
VenusAt the start of August, it rises at 05:46 am (AWST), and by the end of the month, it’ll rise at 05:58 am (AWST)
MarsAt the start of August, it rises at 01:18 am (AWST), and by the end of the month, it’ll rise at 00:46 am (AWST)
JupiterAt the start of August, it rises at 10:11 pm (AWST), and by the end of the month, it’ll rise at 08:04 pm (AWST)
SaturnAt the start of August, it rises at 6:36 pm (AWST), and by the end of the month, it’ll set at 05:52 am (AWST)
UranusAt the start of August, it rises at 01:21 am (AWST), and by the end of the month, it’ll rise at 11:27 pm (AWST)
NeptuneAt the start of August, it rises at 09:08 pm (AWST), and by the end of the month, it’ll rise at 07:07 pm (AWST)

Conjunctions And Occultations:

Conjunctions involve object(s) in the Solar System and/or more distant objects, such as a star. It’s an apparent phenomenon in which multiple objects which aren’t close together appear close in the sky and it’s caused by the observer’s perspective. An occultation is an event that occurs when one object is hidden by another object that passes between it and the observer.

  • 04/08/22 – Conjunction of The Moon and Spica (Where to look)
  • 07/08/22 – Conjunction of The Moon and Antares (Where to look)
  • 12/08/22 – Conjunction of The Moon and Saturn (Where to look)
  • 16/08/22 – Conjunction of The Moon and Jupiter (Where to look)
  • 19/08/22 – Conjunction of The Moon, Mars, Uranus, Aldebaran and Pleiades (Where to look)
  • 24/08/22 – Conjunction of The Moon, Castor and Pollux (Where to look)
  • 30/08/22 – Conjunction of The Moon, Mercury and Spica (Where to look)
  • 31/08/22 – Conjunction of The Moon and Spica (Where to look)

Astronomical Events This Month:

 The Perseids:

The Perseids meteor shower is once again nearly upon us, with the peak night occurring on the night of the 12th/13th. The Perseids is a Northern Hemisphere shower, and they appear to come from the constellation Perseus, where they get their name. The shower is active from about mid-July to the end of August. Usually, the meteor rate exceeds 100 meteors per hour.

Unfortunately for us in Australia, the Perseids is very low on the horizon in the North around 6 am. This year the Moon is in a Full Moon phase so they will be reduced numbers from the light pollution from it.

The Perseids on the 13/08/22 at 06:00 am. Image Credit: Stellarium
The Perseids from the Northern Hemisphere. Image Credit: Space.com

Things To Look At This Month:

Albireo:

Albireo is a double star that is 390 light-years away from us located in the constellation Cygnus. Albireo is the “beak star” in Cygnus the Swan. The origin of the name is through several mistranslations between Greek, Arabic and Latin. It is a good wide double star with strong colour contrast, possibly the best available to modest telescopes. It is low in the North and only available for a few months of the year during the late winter and spring. The primary star is yellow/amber in colour whilst its companion is blue/green.

The primary star is a close binary also, however, it is too close and faint to detect without very large telescopes and excellent observing conditions. The stars revolve around one another in about ~100 000 years. The primary star is ~5 times the mass and ~1 200 times brighter than the sun but with a cooler surface temperature of ~4 100 K. The secondary star is ~3.2 times the mass and ~230 times the brightness of the sun with a surface temperature of ~12 000 K.

Albireo on the 15/08/22 at 09:00 pm. Image Credit: Stellarium
Albireo. Image Credit: Palomar Observatory/STScI/WikiSky
Dumbbell Nebula:

The Dumbbell Nebula (M20 & NGC 6514) is a planetary nebula in the constellation Vulpecula (The little fox) of between 9-15,000 years of age. A planetary nebula is an emission nebula. However, rather than being a star formation area like the Orion Nebula, it is part of the late lifecycle of a star than has blown off a shell of material in a nova-style explosion. This shell of gas is irradiated by ultraviolet radiation from the remaining star and results in an emission nebulae from the shell of gases that is expanding from the star. Planetary nebulae are generally a spherical style objects and relatively small in size, which is why they look like planetary discs in small telescopes. They are very short-lived phenomena of a few tens of thousands of years which then fade and become more tenuous as they recede from their source star.

It’s nearly 3 light-years across and it’s at a similar distance to the Orion Nebula at about 1,360 light-years, but it’s much smaller visually at ~1/4 of the Full Moon’s diameter. The Dumbbell Nebula appears shaped like a prolate spheroid and is viewed from our perspective along the plane of its equator. The central star is the progenitor of the Dumbbell Nebula and is a white dwarf star, ~5 % of the Sun’s diameter and ~50 % of its mass. This gives it a size larger than most other known white dwarfs. The inner region of the Dumbbell Nebula appears very ragged and full of knots, when imaged at high resolution, as by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2001. These substructures have sizes of 20 to 60 million kilometres (i.e., fractions of an AU) and contain about three Earth masses each.

The Dumbbell Nebula on the 15/08/22 at 09:00 pm. Image Credit: Stellarium
The Dumbbell Nebula. Image Credit: Mark Hanson
Scorpius Globular Cluster:

The Scorpius Globular Cluster (M4 & NGC 6121) is one of the nearest globular clusters to the Earth in the sky at 7,200 light-years. It is located very close to the star Antares in the constellation of Scorpius (the Scorpion) and is a relatively loose cluster that is also one of the smallest at 55 light-years across. The cluster is estimated to be 12.2 to 13 billion years old and it contains around 100,000 stars in a roughly spherical arrangement and contains an unusual central bar of stars which was noted by William Herschel in 1783.

It is located in the halo of our galaxy, the sphere-shaped region of the Milky Way circling above and below the pancake shape galactic disk, where it orbits the centre of the galaxy, but not in the plane of the galaxy. First discovered in 1746 by Philippe Loys de Chéseaux. M4 holds the distinction of being the first globular cluster ever to be resolved into stars by a telescope. It can be seen as a diffuse patch through binoculars but even a 4-inch telescope resolves the brightest stars. Its extent is just smaller than the size of the full moon.

The M4 Globular Cluster on the 15/08/22 at 09:00pm. Image Credit: Stellarium
The M4 Globular Cluster. Image Credit & Copyright: ESO
Cat’s Paw Nebula:

One for the Astrographers out there, The Cat’s Paw Nebula (NGC 6334) is an emission nebula and star-forming region located in the constellation Scorpius. also known as the Bear Claw Nebula, which was discovered by astronomer John Herschel in 1837, who observed it from the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. The nebula is in the Carina–Sagittarius Arm of the Milky Way at about 5,500 light-years from the Earth.

The nebula spans 320 light-years. In the visible part of the spectrum, it emits mainly red from ionised hydrogen atoms and blue from oxygen atoms. It covers an area in the night sky slightly larger than the full Moon and it has several star-forming regions which have been identified from infrared and radio emissions. It’s also one of the most active stellar nurseries producing massive stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. The hot young stars embedded in the nebula are responsible for its glow, with some of them being roughly 10 times as massive as our Sun and were formed within the last few million years.

The Cat's Paw Nebula on the 15/08/22 at 09:00pm. Image Credit: Stellarium
The Cat's Paw Nebula. Image Credit & Copyright: George Varouhakis

Phases Of The Moon:

August 2022 Moon phases