Space Talk w/Bradley: Stargazing Events for August 2021

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(WVNS) — Stormtracker 59 Meteorologist Bradley Wells is back with another look at the upcoming celestial events that will delight our region all month long. With the month of August upon us, we’ll be dazzled by a beautiful Saturn, the “Sturgeon” Moon, and one of the best meteor showers of the year! Remember to bookmark this page so you and your family can enjoy all the August night skies have to offer.

ALL MONTH LONG -THE SUMMER TRIANGLE: In the August night skies, three constellations – Aquila, Cygnus and Lyra, are present. Each of these constellations has a star that is brighter than the rest of those found in each constellation. All month long, the three brightest of these stars form an imaginary triangle. This triangle is known as the Summer Triangle and can be found by looking up in the eastern night sky.

AUGUST 2ND- FLASHY RINGED PLANET: Saturn will make its closest approach in its orbit to Earth this night. In addition, Saturn will be in opposition to our sun, which will light up the face of the famous ringed planet. Saturn will be at its brightest level and visible all night long. If you have a decent telescope, you’ll be able to view Saturn with little moonlight for some great viewing.

AUGUST 3RD – INTERNATIONAL FLYBY: The International Space Station (ISS) will make a decent pass over our region this night. If you look northwest starting at 9:06 p.m., you’ll be able to watch the ISS fly-over. It’ll be visible for about seven minutes from the Northwest to the Southeast. The fly-over path will see it rise to about 85 degrees in the night sky, or nearly overhead. The ISS will look like a bright, slow-moving star that fades in towards the northwest and fades away towards the southeast.

AUGUST 8TH – DARKEST SKIES: Our moon will reach the ‘New Moon’ phase around 9 a.m. EDT. This will mark the darkest skies for the month of August. For those that love to venture out and stargaze, participate in astrophotography, or watch for the upcoming meteor shower, tonight will be a great night for all of those with no moonlight to hinder your view of the night sky.

AUGUST 10TH – BLAST OFF: A resupply mission to the International Space Station will blast off from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island in Virginia. At the time of this posting, a Northrop Grumman Antares rocket is scheduled to launch at 5:55 p.m. EDT, (weather and technical issues notwithstanding). In the past, rocket launches from this location were visible from our region shortly after launch. Some missions have left colorful trails in the atmosphere that are visible long after the rocket leaves our atmosphere.

AUGUST 11TH – VENUS DANCES WITH OUR MOON: If you happen to look west this evening, you’ll be greeted by our sister planet Venus and our Moon dancing across the sky together. Venus is easily found due to its brightness, but if you have trouble, look for the crescent moon on this night and Venus will be within a finger width or two away from it.

AUGUST 12TH & 13TH – STARS FALL TO EARTH: The annual Perseids Meteor Shower peaks the night of August 12th into the morning of the 13th. The comet Swift-Tuttle left debris in our orbit and as a result, we run into this debris field the same time every year. The Perseids Meteor Shower is one of the year’s most spectacular meteor showers with up to 100 meteors an hour or more possible at its peak. As an added bonus, our moon will be about 10% full and setting early in the evening, allowing for us to see more meteors streak across our skies. For best viewing, move away from city lights. The meteors can be found anywhere in the sky, but they will appear to radiate from the constellation Perseus. While the peak is best for viewing, the meteor shower is visible for our region from July 17th through August 24th.

AUGUST 19TH – JUPITER SHINES BRIGHT: Our solar system’s bodyguard will make its closest approach to Earth, lighting up our night sky this night. Jupiter’s size allows it to deflect and absorb comets, asteroids and other stellar junk away from the inner rocky planets. Jupiter will be the brightest “star” in the night sky and with a good telescope, you’ll be able to see the gas giant and its infamous red spot all night long. Depending on your telescope, you’ll be able to make out four of Jupiter’s largest moons as well.

AUGUST 20TH – ANOTHER DANCING PAIR: The ringed planet Saturn and our Moon will meet up in the late August sky for a dance across the heavens. The waxing gibbous moon and Saturn will be about two finger widths apart from each other and can be found in the southern sky.

AUGUST 22ND – A FISHY BLUE MOON: August’s full moon, or Sturgeon Moon, will make its way across the night sky this night. The name “Sturgeon” comes from Native Americans, who found sturgeon in the Great Lakes were easier to catch. Normally we only have three full moons each season, but with an orbit around Earth of 29.5 days, every 2.7 years we get four full moons a season. The 4th full moon is called a “Blue Moon”. This rare event is where the term “once in a blue moon” comes from. So the next time someone says “once in a blue moon,” you’ll know they mean roughly two years and eight months.

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