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Astronomical events in August

ColumnHead-StargazingThe Sunshine Coast Astronomy Club is involved in a number events August 15 – 17. On Thursday, August 15, solar telescopes will be set up at the Sechelt Night Market for observing the Sun in the early evening. The next night, Friday, members welcome anyone with an interest in astronomy to join them for coffee and chat at the club’s Astro-café at Pier 17 in Davis Bay starting at 8:30pm. Weather permitting, telescopes will be set up by the sea-wall at Davis Bay just after sunset to do some observing. On Saturday, August 17 the club will be at Porpoise Bay for Astronomy-in-the-Park, with solar observing in the afternoon followed by a presentation around 9pm focused on the Moon, in the park’s amphitheatre. Scopes will also be set up for observing the night sky, including the waxing and close-to-full Moon.

August 3 has the waning crescent Moon located about 5 degrees southwest of Jupiter in the predawn sky. The next day the Moon will be approximately 5 degrees below Mars and 8 degrees above Mercury in the morning twilight. The moon will be new at 2:51pm (all times are PDST) on August 6 and thus starting a fresh cycle of phases, as signalled by its absence. On August 9 the waxing crescent Moon will be about 5 degrees below Venus, low in the evening twilight just above the western horizon.

Monday, August 12 will feature perhaps the best night sky show of the month, with the Perseid meteor shower set to peak. Though the maximum number of meteors is predicted to happen at 11am, the predawn hours on Monday or later that evening should feature a good number of ‘falling stars’. As was mentioned in the July column, the regular meteor showers seen throughout the year are respectively named for the constellation from where they appear to radiate. So a Perseid meteor can appear anywhere in the night sky but if you trace its path back it will appear to have come from Perseus, in the north-northeast, just below the W-shaped constellation Cassiopeia. So find a quiet patch of open-sky away from artificial lighting, take a comfortable summer chair and enjoy the display. Moonlight won’t be interfering with the darkness of the sky since the Moon will still be in its early waxing crescent phase, and setting just after 10pm, placed about 4 degrees below Saturn low in the west-southwest. The Moon reaches the halfway point in its phase cycle, becoming full at 6:45pm on August 20. Neptune, the furthest planet from the Sun, reaches opposition at about 7pm on August 26. This means that as the Sun sets over the western horizon Neptune will be rising in the east-southeast. So if the Sun sets before our eyes, Neptune will rise from the opposite side, behind us. Neptune is faint, somewhat dimmer than the faintest stars visible to normal human vision, but for any planet observers out there it will be highest above the southern horizon at about 1:15am on August 27 not quite 30 degrees above due south. It seems only fitting that the planet named after the Roman god of the sea should be nestled in the constellation named Aquarius, the Latin term for “water bearer”.

Anyone interested in local astronomy activities is invited to please visit the Sunshine Coast Astronomy Club website at .

Submitted by Scott Harlow

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