Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, August 10, 2012.
The Moon begins our week just past its third
quarter, which took place on Thursday, August 9. It will then
spend the rest of the week as an ever-thinning waning crescent until it hits new
Moon on Friday the 17th. Your last decent view of it will be on
the morning of Wednesday the 15th. The morning of Saturday the
11th, the crescent will appear up and to the right of Jupiter with the Hyades
and Aldebaran below it, while
the following morning, the Moon will lie down and to the left of
the bright planet. Meanwhile you might spot Venus down and to the left of both of them. Venus then
becomes highlighted the morning of Monday the 13th, when the thin
crescent will be just up and to the right of it. Both Jupiter and
Venus will be occulted by the Moon, both during daylight hours.
While the occultation of Venus is visible throughout most of the
continental US, that of Jupiter is not. Finally, the mornings of
Tuesday the 14th and Wednesday the 15th finds the Moon moving
downward between Venus and Mercury.
Both morning and evening present us with remarkable planetary
sights. Venus starts us off by going through its greatest western
elongation relative to the Sun (46 degrees) on
Wednesday the 15th, the brilliant planet rising somewhat before 3
AM Daylight Time. Lesser, but still very bright, Jupiter precedes
it by about an hour and a half, the giant planet making somewhat of
a transition by rising around local midnight (1 AM Daylight) to the
northeast of the Hyades of Taurus. Far to the other side of Venus,
rising just about as morning twilight begins, Mercury (a difficult
sight) goes through its own greatest western elongation of just 19
degrees relative to the Sun on Thursday the 16th.
The evening does even better. The nights of Monday the 13th and
Tuesday the 14th, watch for
Mars as it passes between Saturn (to the north of it) and Spica (to the south), the three making
an unusually tight configuration, all in a nice more or less
straight line. Mars will then rapidly move to the east of the
Saturn/Spica pair, the motion easily visible from night to night.
This is the long-awaited week of the annual Perseid meteor
shower, the leavings of Comet Swift-
Tuttle, which has a 130 year orbit and last came by in the
early 1990s. The light from the crescent Moon will not much
interfere, and the night of Saturday the 11th (actually the morning
of Sunday the 12th) you can expect to see one or two meteors per
minute appearing to emanate from the constellation Perseus.
This is the prime season for viewing Scorpius, the celestial Scorpion, which looks
remarkably like what it is supposed to be. Far to the south, its
luminary Antares takes its name
from the Greek version of Mars. Of similar color, Mars will pass
it the middle of next October. To the northwest, evening's Big Dipper begins to round the