Perseid Peaks | August 2022 Sky Happenings


August 3, 2022
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Editor’s Note: Look to the skies as HMNS Astronomer James Wooten explains the sky happenings for the month of August, including the Perseid Meteor Shower.

Saturn is up literally all night long this month. Look for it low in the southeast at nightfall.

Venus remains in the morning sky this month. Venus outshines everything except the Sun and the Moon, so you can try to find it low in the east at dawn. Venus is now getting lower and lower each morning as it starts to approach the Sun. Next month, we’ll lose it in the Sun’s glare

Mars is higher in the morning sky this month. It also brightens considerably, rivaling the brightest stars in the sky by month’s end.

Jupiter is also in the morning sky this month. You can see it in the east at dawn. It also rises in late evening this month. Jupiter rises by 11:10 pm tonight (8/1), by 10:10 pm on the 15th, and by 9:10 pm on the 31st.

Bed of stars in distance beyond trees. - Perseid Meteor Shower
In this 30 second exposure, a meteor streaks across the sky during the annual Perseid meteor shower, Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021, in Spruce Knob, West Virginia. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The Big Dipper is above and to the left of the North Star, with its handle pointing up. From that handle, you can ‘arc to Arcturus’. Arcturus is the brightest star we see on August evenings.

The Summer Triangle is high in the east at dusk. This consists of Deneb, Vega, and Altair, the brightest stars in Cygnus, Lyra, and Aquila respectively. Scorpius, the Scorpion, is in the south, with the ‘teapot’ of Sagittarius to his left. When you face between these two constellations, you face the direction of the galactic center, which all stars in the Milky Way orbit. The Great Square of Pegasus rises in the east, heralding the coming autumn.

If you are far enough from bright city lights, you might look for the Milky Way band. This band is brightest near the galactic center and extends from there right through the Summer Triangle. In fact, every star we ever see in the sky with the naked eye is in our Milky Way. Indeed, our galaxy is so big that only stars relatively close to us appear as distinct stars; the rest of our galaxy blurs out and appears as the Milky Way band across our sky. For example, Deneb is about 1600 light years away, which is quite far. The entire Milky Way, however, is 100,000 light years across, making Deneb one of our relative ‘neighbors’. Thus, we see our Milky Way as a blur in the background with stars like Deneb (and Vega, Altair, Arcturus, etc.) in the foreground.

August 2022 sky map
This star map shows the Houston sky at 10 pm CDT on August 1, 9 pm CDT on August 15, and dusk on August 31.  To use the map, put the direction you are facing at the bottom.
 
The Summer Triangle is high overhead.  This consists of the brightest stars in Cygnus, Lyra, and Aquila.  Scorpius, the Scorpion, is in the south, with the ‘teapot’ of Sagittarius to his left.  From the Big Dipper’s handle, ‘arc to Arcturus’ and ‘speed on to Spica’ in the southwest.  Saturn is in the southeast at dusk and up all night long this month.  Jupiter rises in late evening by the end of the month.  The Great Square of Pegasus rises in the east, heralding the coming autumn.

Moon Phases in August 2022:

1st Quarter August 5, 6:06 a.m.

Full August 11, 8:35 p.m.

Last Quarter August 18, 11:36 p.m.

New August 27, 3:17 a.m.

The Perseid meteor shower peaks every year in mid-August as Earth passes through debris left by Comet Swift-Tuttle. This year, though, the peak (August 11-13) coincides with a Full Moon. Thus, we can’t see as many meteors this year.

Our George Observatory is now open every Saturday night for observing!  Purchase tickets in advance on our website.

Clear Skies!

Looking back for July Sky Happenings? Click here.

Authored By James Wooten

James is the Planetarium Astronomer at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. He teaches students every school morning in the planetarium, and also answers astronomy questions from the public.


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