2 August. Look for sand-colored Saturn to the south and west of the waxing gibbous Moon, and north and east of the red-orange star Antares. Well past opposition, the planet is still a dazzling sight in a small telescope all month. Its rings are tilted near maximum, about 27º, the greatest in 15 years, and the planet’s disk is still a respectable 18″ across. If you’ve got a telescope, make some time to see Saturn this month. It’s a beautiful sight.
7 August. Full Moon, 18:11 UT
7 August. A modest partial lunar eclipse occurs for observers in most of Africa, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. The eclipse runs from about 15:50 UT to 20:51 UT, with maximum (though not total) eclipse at 18:20 UT. Not by coincidence, a total solar eclipse occurs two weeks later on August 21, 2017.
10 August. Jupiter lies less than one degree from the 4th-magnitude star Theta Virginis in the southwestern sky. Jupiter is past its prime for observers this year, but it still delights the patient stargazer equipped with a small telescope and steady sky. Still brighter than any star, the planet is moving westward this month and dominates the western or southwestern sky as darkness falls.
12 August. The Perseid meteor shower peaks in the early-morning hours. This is the finest meteor shower of the year for northern stargazers, with 40-60 meteors per hour visible at the peak in the hours before dawn on August 12. The scattered light of the waning gibbous Moon gets in the way of the fainter Perseids this year, but you can also see meteors several days before and after the peak. If you’re out late (or early) take a look. Once called the Tears of St. Lawrence, this meteor shower occurs as the Earth moves through a stream of debris left by Comet Swift-Tuttle.
15 August. Last Quarter Moon, 01:15 UT
16 August. Look for the waning crescent Moon nearly tangled in the stars of the V-shaped Hyades star cluster in the eastern sky well before dawn.
19 August. Brilliant Venus attends the thin, waning crescent Moon in the eastern sky before dawn. Venus rises well before dawn this month and shines at magnitude -4.0, brighter than any star. In a telescope, the face of the planet appears about 80% illuminated by month’s end. The planet lies among the bright stars of Gemini for the first few weeks of August, then passes into the constellation Cancer. At month’s end it lies very near the Beehive Cluster, M44, a celestial meeting well worth inspecting in binoculars.
21 August. New Moon, 18:30 UT
21 August. A total solar eclipse occurs in a narrow band across the United States. This is the first total eclipse visible from the lower 48 states in 38 years, and the first coast-to-coast total eclipse in the U.S. in 99 years. Get yourself a set of eclipse glasses or a solar viewing card to get a safe view of this event.
To see the total solar eclipse during the brief minutes of totality, you must be on the narrow band that stretches from Oregon to South Carolina. Otherwise, you will only see a partial eclipse. The eclipse occurs in the late-morning hours in the western states, around noon in the Midwest, and in early afternoon in the east.
The total eclipse will last roughly two and a half minutes for observers on the center line of the path of totality, and less for those just off the center. A partial solar eclipse will visible in all of North America, even for observers well off the narrow path of totality. This link gives you precise timing of the event for hundreds of towns and cities.
To observe the eclipse at any time other than the few moments of totality when the Moon completely covers the face of the Sun, you MUST wear protective solar eclipse glasses or a similar device (like a solar viewing card) to look directly at the Sun.
This article gives you some idea of where the total eclipse is visible. For advice on how to safely see the eclipse, download this more extensive (and free) guide. And for all the details, here’s a link to my short, inexpensive (and bestselling!) guide at the Amazon Kindle store.
If you happen to witness totality on August 21, 2017, make sure to look around the sky for stars and planets to come into view. During this eclipse, Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter will all become visible along with the bright stars of Orion, Gemini, and Leo (see image above).
25 August. Look for the first-quarter Moon in a small triangle with the planet Jupiter and bright star Spica in the southwestern sky after sunset.
29 August. First Quarter Moon, 08:13 UTShare This: