WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

What's Up August 9-15

Posted August 9, 2020 5:01 p.m. EDT
Updated August 11, 2020 9:56 a.m. EDT

Saturday morning, Aug 15, the Moon and Venus join the twin stars of Gemini in the predawn sky.

Look for Perseid meteors and Starlink satellites. The ISS wont be making any visible passes, we'll next see it in our skies on August 22. But Saturday offers the chance to see a spy satellite pass over, be sure to wave.

Tuesday August 11

Look for Perseid meteors Tuesday evening.

The Perseid meteor shower peaks this evening. Best times to look is after 11 pm when the radiant point in the constellation Perseus is high enough for many meteors to not be hidden below the horizon but before moonrise around 12:30 a.m.  To see the most meteors, look to the darkest part of your sky.

If you look to toward the radiant point, where meteors appear to be originating from, near the constellation Perseus just below the W-shaped constellation Cassiopeia, you'll likely see less meteors with shorter trails. Also look early in the evening low on the northwest horizon for a few "earthgrazer" meteors skimming off the upper atmosphere, leaving long sustained trails.

Be sure to look for Mars rising in the East as well. It is brighter this time of year because it is closer to the Sun and closer to Earth.

The third quarter moon will be bright enough to wash out many meteors during the usual best viewing hours before dawn.

Wednesday August 12

While the latest batch of Starlink satellites launched by SpaceX include sunshades which makes them less visible, the batch launched on June 13 may be visible from darker locations before sunrise. Look to the south southwest at 5:45 a.m., spread over the next 15 minutes three dozen Starlink satellites will rise, reaching 50-70 degrees above the horizon before each sets about seven minutes later.

Thursday August 13

The bright star Aldebaran will appear about 4 degrees below the waning crescent Moon. The pair rise around 2 a.m. local and are visible until dawn. Also look for a rocket booster from a recent launch by the Japanese Space Agency rising brightly in the south southeast at 9:34 p.m.  it will pass directly overhead before setting on the northern horizon four minutes later.

Saturday August 15

As Venus continues her eastward drift in the predawn sky, look for her to meet up with the Moon, separated by less than 4 degrees. The pair will a long rectangle with the brighter twin stars in Gemini.

The Moon and Venus join the twin stars of Gemini in the predawn sky.

After sunset, if you see a point of light moving from the south southeast at 8:43 pm before setting on the northern horizon six minutes later, you just saw a spy satellite. Launched in 2005, it is the latest generation in operation of Keyhole satellites operated by the National Reconnaissance Office.

Looking ahead

While Mars recently was at its closest point to the Sun recently and NASA did select the end of July to launch the Mars 2020 rover because of the red planet's proximity to Earth, Mars will not appear as big as the Moon on August 27, or any other time. The hoax has begun making its annual appearance across social media.

hoax image claiming Mars will appear as large as the Moon

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