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Photo of the Week.Before the chill of winter comes the beauty of Fall and its clear skies.

Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, August 8, 2014.

The Moon starts our week late in its waxing gibbous phase, which ends at full Moon on Sunday, August 10, during the day around noon in North America when it is quite out of sight. The Moon will thus rise the night of Saturday the 9th just short of full and the night of Sunday the 10th just past that phase as it begins to gibbously wane. Last quarter is not passed until Sunday the 17th. Sadly the Moon makes no passages by any planets except for Neptune and Uranus (on Monday the 11th and Thursday the 14th) as it works its way up to and past the celestial equator into the northern celestial hemisphere. On Sunday the 10th the Moon passes perigee, when it is closest to the Earth, to the hour the same time as it achieves full phase, the coincidence bringing especially high and low tides to the ocean coasts.

In the planetary realm, Mars continues its rapid trek to the east against the background stars as it continues to pull away from Spica in Virgo and head toward Saturn in Libra, the two bright planets quite obvious. But you have to look early, as Mars is gone by 11 PM Daylight Time, and if you have any horizon obstructions, well before that. Saturn follows a little over half an hour later. On the other side of the sky, Venus begins to rise shortly after the break of dawn, followed by Jupiter. Mercury is impossible, as it passes superior conjunction with the Sun (the planet to the rear) on Friday the 8th.

All year we wait for the king of annual meteor showers, the Perseids, which will peak the night of Tuesday the 12th and the morning of Wednesday the 13th. They are the debris of comet Swift- Tuttle, which returns to us every 133 years and last came by in 1995. Unfortunately, the shower, which usually feeds us 60-100 meteors per hour that seem to emanate from the constellation Perseus, will be mostly ruined by the brightness of the waning gibbous Moon.

The summer stars are much upon us. In mid-evening, the Summer Triangle of Deneb, Vega (marginally the second brightest star of the northern hemisphere), and Altair, is rising high in the east, while Hercules rides high near the celestial meridian and Bootes (with Arcturus, which barely beats out Vega) descends into the northwest. To the south, the deadly Scorpion (with Antares at its heart) lurks to the west of Sagittarius.
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