August is marked by the annual Perseid meteor shower, probably the most famous of all meteor showers.
It will be rough going this year because the shower happens to coincide with the full moon. The peak of the shower will be on the evenings of Aug. 12-13, with the peak reaching about 90 meteors per hour.
Even with the bright moon, you should be able to see a few of the brighter meteors. However, all is not lost. The Perseid shower is quite durable, and quite often its meteors can be spotted for a good two weeks before and after the peak.
Saturn now rises just above the east-southeast horizon all month in the fading evening twilight. The ringed planet reaches opposition from the sun on the 12th, just above the west-southwestern horizon, about 45 minutes before sunrise.
Saturn, shining at magnitude +0.3, keeps company with the moon all night as the moon also reaches opposition as it becomes full. On the morning of the 12th, around 2:30 Mountain Daylight Time, the pair will be separated by only 4 degrees.
Mighty Jupiter now rises around midnight and, shining at magnitude -2.8, will be easy to spot in the southeastern sky. It will be well-placed for naked eye, binocular and small telescope viewing all month long.
Mars climbs even higher in the pre-dawn southeastern sky, keeping company with the Pleiades star cluster, which should be easily visible when the moon is not nearby. Venus continues to sink toward the east-northeastern horizon.
We still have a month or two of this brilliant “morning star” before it is lost to our view. Mercury is lost to our view this month as it reaches conjunction with the sun.
The moon will be first quarter on the 5th, full on the 12th, last quarter on the 19th and new on the 27th. Looking to the west-southwest on the 12th, about 45 minutes before sunrise, the nearly full Moon can be found just to the right of Saturn.
Looking to the southwest on the 15th, about halfway up and an hour before sunrise, the waning Moon will be slightly below and to the left of Jupiter. Looking southeast, high in the sky and about one hour before sunrise, the last quarter Moon will be just above and to the left of Mars.
Looking east-northeast on the 25th, about 45 minutes before sunrise, brilliant Venus will seem to hover just above the horizon with a very thin waning crescent Moon just above.
There will not be a first Saturday star party at the Etscorn Campus Observatory this month.
Jon Spargo is part of the New Mexico Tech Astronomy Club.