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The Night Sky in August



    THE moon is new on August 6 at 12·6h and full on August 22h at 0·8h, U.T. Conjunction with the planet Venus occurs on August 3 at 9h, and from the northern part of England and in Scotland an occultation can be seen (see NATURE, July 17, p. 103). On August 18 at 23h, there is a conjunction with Jupiter, and on August 24 at 20h a conjunction with Saturn. On August 30, the moon occults the 5th magnitude star, o Tauri, the re-appearance at Greenwich taking place at 3h 20m at position angle 314° from the moon's north point. From sunset until sunrise during August, four bright planets are visible. Mars sets before midnight ; Jupiter is on the meridian at 21¾h in the middle of the month, followed by Saturn at 2¾ whilst Venus rises at about 1¼h and is a brilliant object in the early morning skies, passing between Procyon and Castor and Pollux towards the end of the month. Uranus is nearly stationary in Aries and may be picked out from the background of stars of similar magnitude (about 6m) with the help of the map given on p· 57 of the B.A.A. Handbook. At about 21h the constellations on the meridian offer almost unlimited scope for interesting 'sweeps', which should include double stars such as α Herculis, θ Serpentis, β Cygni, γ Delphini and δ Cephei. The latter star is a notable short-period variable giving its name to a class of variable which, recognizable in the nearer extra-galactic nebulæ, enables the distances of these remote systems to be determined. Of the nebulæ and star clusters to be viewed with binoculars or a small telescope, the 'ring' nebula in Lyra, the 'dumb-bell' nebula in Vulpecula and the star cluster in Hercules should be easily located by means of a star atlas. The general outline of the Milky Way may also be studied with binoculars, noting the bifurcation near the bright star, Deneb, and the star clouds near the southern horizon. It may be recalled that towards a point at R.A. 18h 4m: Dec. +31° the solar system is moving into space with a speed of 12 miles a second. Between August 10 and 12, in particular, the sky may be watched for meteors of the Perseid stream. An ephemeris for the comet Grigg-Skjellerup is given on p. 32 of the B.A.A. Handbook and also one for the comet Encke, which may possibly be picked up before long on its return to perihelion due next December. The periodicity of this comet, only 3·3 years—the shortest known period for a comet—was first recognized by Encke in 1819.

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