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What's In The Sky? - August 2020

Email sent: Jul 31, 2020 9:54pm

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What's in the Sky? — August 2020
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What's in the Sky - August 2020

Warm summer nights seem like they're tailor-made for backyard astronomers. Evenings throughout August are great opportunities to get the whole family outside for summer stargazing fun with a telescope or your favorite pair of binoculars. Here are a few of Orion's top picks for August stargazing:

Perseid Meteor Shower
Go outside on the mornings of August 11th-13th for the best chances to see the peak of the Perseid meteor shower! The shower is active from July 17th through August 24th, but the peak will be on the 11-13th this year. The Moon will be at its last quarter at this time, which could present some light pollution interference. However, with up to 50-75 meteors per hour expected under skies with low light pollution, the Perseids should still put on a great summertime show.

Venus high in the sky
On the morning of August 13th Venus will be at its greatest Western elongation, rising early before sunrise. Because Venus is closer to the Sun, it is best viewed during an elongation like this, since it is close to its highest point in the sky as the sun rises. Look above the Eastern horizon before sunrise to catch a glimpse of the innermost planet!

Jupiter, Saturn, and Pluto
Jupiter and Saturn glow prominently in the evening sky in August. Look southeast to south, just to the left of the Milky Way band. Jupiter is the brighter of the two. Any telescope equipped for 30x magnification or more will show Saturn's rings clearly, and you can see Jupiter's largest moons even in binoculars. And for the adventurous, it's a good month to glimpse the tiny "planet" Pluto; it lies between Saturn and Jupiter in the sky this month. But you'll need a 10" or larger telescope to spot it, since it's only at 14th magnitude brightness. It will look just like a star, but hey, that's because it's waaaay out there. Use our StarSeek 5 app to pinpoint its exact location!

Nebulas
Many excellent examples of gaseous nebulas are on display in the skies of August. The brightest are M16 the Eagle Nebula, M17 the Swan Nebula, M20 the Trifid Nebula and the very bright M8, Lagoon Nebula. All are visible in binoculars from dark locations with good seeing. Use a small to moderate aperture telescope with the aid of an Oxygen-III eyepiece filter or SkyGlow Broadband Filter to see these nebulas from locations plagued by light pollution.

New Moon
New Moon is August 18th and therefore the best time to observe the more faint objects like galaxies and star clusters. Grab your gear and enjoy!

August Challenge Object
Our challenge this month is a surprisingly easy object to see with a telescope, but not so easy with binoculars. Look for M27, the Dumbbell Nebula in the constellation of Vulpecula, just south of Cygnus. M27 is one of the nearest and brightest planetary nebulas visible from Earth. It's so big that it can be spotted in humble 7 x 50 binoculars, but it does present a challenge! Try to track M27 down this August with your astronomy binoculars; it will be a small dot, slightly larger than the surrounding stars, but definitely visible through 50mm or larger binoculars.

All objects described above can easily be seen with the suggested equipment from a dark sky site, a viewing location some distance away from city lights where light pollution and when bright moonlight does not overpower the stars.

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