Categories: Sky Reports Posted by: John Mosley
Sky Report: August 15-21
We seldom see a planet in the daytime, for good reason. Venus is surprisingly easy to see if you know exactly where to look, and that’s the trick – where in the sky is it, exactly? You can see Jupiter and sometimes Mars too, with greater effort, but again the trick is to know where to look.
All night on the morning of Monday the 15th Jupiter is near the moon, and as these are the two brightest objects in the morning sky (until Venus rises) they’re a pretty sight from midnight, when they’re low in the southeast, until morning twilight when they’re halfway up the southern sky, and through sunrise when they move to the west. During the night, bright Jupiter is 2½°, or 5 moon-diameters, above the gibbous moon and the two make a striking pair all night.
The cool part of this conjunction happens on the morning of Monday the 15th when the moon is still near Jupiter, and you can use the moon to find Jupiter well past sunrise. At about 8 a.m., for example, they are still 1/3 of the way up the southwestern sky and Jupiter is 2° straight to the right of the moon. If the air is free from dust and haze you should have no trouble seeing Jupiter in binoculars or any telescope. You’ve probably never seen Jupiter during the daytime, so have a look early that Monday morning before the moon and Jupiter get too low and set.
By the way, both are in the constellation Cetus, the Whale. It’s not one of the traditional 12 constellations of the zodiac but it is according to the way modern astronomers divide the sky. Jupiter moved into Cetus from Pisces on June 26th and it remains in Cetus until its retrograde motion takes it westward back into Pisces on September 1st. It’ll then be back in Cetus beginning February 5th next year.
The other planets visible are Saturn, which rises by 9 p.m. and is almost halfway up in the south around 1 a.m. Saturn is 1/17 as bright as Jupiter but still as bright as the brightest stars. Saturn is about 45° west of Jupiter, which is quite a distance considering that they were in conjunction only a year and a half ago.
Mars is the same brightness as Saturn, and it’s as far to the left (east) of Jupiter as Saturn is to the right (west), so together the three planets span about 90° of the sky. Mars rises shortly after midnight in Taurus. The moon is a scant 3° above Mars on the morning of Friday the 19th in another nice conjunction when the two will fit in the field of view of binoculars and wide-angle spotting scopes. You might look for Mars 3° directly below the moon after sunrise, but Mars is now faint, so good luck.
Brilliant Venus rises 90 minutes before the sun and is very low in the east at sunrise.
Stellar Vista Observatory provides portable telescopes and tripod mounted binocular kits on loan for free to residents and visitors in Kane County. Enhance your enjoyment of the night sky! For details or to request a loan, visit https://stellarvistaobservatory.org/discover-the-night-sky/ or drop in to the Kane County Office of Tourism.
The Sky Report is presented as a public service by the Stellar Vista Observatory, a nonprofit organization based in Kanab, Utah, which provides opportunities for people to observe, appreciate, and comprehend our starry night sky. Additional information is at www.stellarvistaobservatory.org. Send questions and comments to John@StargazingAdventures.org.
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