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This website has been created by and is supported by a group of Boston, MA - area amateur astronomers. It is intended to be a convenient site to access news and information about astronomy and space-related activities of interest to the community and the public.













 



 


 

 August Astronomy-Related Events in the Boston Area   

   

  

  

Friday, July 25, 2014 - Sunday, August 3, 2014

Summer Star Party
Peppermint Park Camping Resort
Plainfield, MA
http://www.rocklandastronomy.com/SSP/index.html

 

 

 

Saturday, August 16, 2014, 9:00 - 11:00 PM

Robbins Farm Star Party

Arlington Heights, Arlington, MA.

Explore the wonders of the deep sky! Use the summer constellations to learn to locate deep sky objects like star clusters, galaxies, and nebulas. Some of these objects can even be spotted with binoculars on a dark night, so bring a pair if you have them.

  

  

   

    

 

 

Friday, August 29 - Monday, Sept. 1, 2014

Arunah Hill Days
Cummington, MA
http://www.arunah.org/events/ahd.htm

 

 

  

Plus:

  

Wednesdays:

Boston University

Boston, MA.
Open Night at Coit Observatory most Wednesdays 8:30 PM - 9:30 PM. 
http://www.bu.edu/astronomy/events/public-open-night-at-the-observatory/

 

  

Fridays:

Guililland Observatory

Museum of Science

Boston, MA

"Astronomy After Hours" Friday nights 8:30 PM - 10:00 PM.

http://www.mos.org/public-events/astronomy-after-hours

 


 

The Sky Report for the Month of August 2014

 

 

 

Current Night Sky: At A Glance

 

Phases of the Moon:

First Quarter

August 3

8:50 PM EDT

Full Moon

August 10

2:09 PM EDT

Last Quarter Moon

August 17

8:26 AM EDT

New Moon

August 25

10:13 AM EDT

 

 

 

 

 

The Moon & Planets:

  

The Moon & Planets:

 

On August 2nd, the waxing crescent Moon lies almost exactly between Mars and Spica. A day later, it passes between Mars and Saturn. In the morning sky of the 23rd, a waning crescent Moon forms a triangle, just 6° from Jupiter and 9° from Venus. Back in the evening sky on the 29th, the crescent Moon forms a compact triangle less than 5° on a side with Mars and Saturn.

 

 

Evening Planets (after sunset):

  • Mercury, in W
  • Mars, in SW
  • Saturn, in SW
  • Neptune, in E

 

Visible At Midnight:

  • Neptune, in SE
  • Uranus, in E

 

Morning Planets (before sunrise):

  • Neptune, in SW
  • Uranus, in S
  • Venus, in E
  • Jupiter, in E

 

 

Comets:

 

  •           There are no comets visible brighter than magnitude 8.

 

Meteors:

          Everyone looks forward to the Perseid meteor shower in August. Unfortunately, this year, the Full Moon, which occurs just two days before the peak of the shower on August 12/13, rains on the parade; its bright light will drown out all but the brightest meteors.

    


  •   

A Schedule of Events

 

  • Aug. 1 Fri. (all day)   Lamas - a "cross-quarter" day
    Aug. 3 Sun. 7:00 PM EDT Moon 2.2° NNE of Mars
    Aug. 3 Sun. 8:50 PM EDT First Quarter Moon
    Aug. 4 Mon. 7:00 AM EDT Moon 0.13° WSW of Saturn
    Aug. 8 Fri. 12:00 PM EDT Mercury @ superior conjunction with Sun
    Aug. 10 Sun. 1:48 PM EDT Moon @ perigee (55.96 Earth radii) - nearest of year
    Aug. 10 Sun. 2:09 PM EDT Full Moon ("Full Sturgeon Moon") -  a "Super Moon"!
    Aug. 12 Tue. 8:15 PM EDT Perseid Meteor peak
    Aug. 17 Sun. 8:26 AM EDT Last Quarter Moon
    Aug. 17 Sun. 10:00 AM EDT Autumn Equinox on Mars
    Aug. 18 Mon. 12:00 AM EDT Venus 0.21° N of Jupiter (closest planet conjunction of year)
    Aug. 23 Sat. 10:00 AM EDT Moon 5.3° SSW of Jupiter
    Aug. 23 Sat. 11:00 PM EDT Moon 5.5° SSW of Venus
    Aug. 24 Sun. 2:00 AM EDT Moon @ apogee (63.74 Earth radii)
    Aug. 25 Mon. 10:13 AM EDT New Moon
    Aug. 25 Mon. 2:00 PM EDT Mars 3.4° SSW of Saturn
    Aug. 29 Fri. 10:00 AM EDT Neptune @ opposition
    Aug. 31 Sun. 2:00 PM EDT Moon 0.96° E of Saturn
    Aug. 31 Sun. 5:00 PM EDT Moon, Mars, and Saturn within circle 4.87° in diameter
  •   

  • Bold Type = Important or Way Cool

  •  

  • * = approximate                          

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  •  

    The Planets

   

Mercury goes through superior conjunction – passing “behind” the Sun from Earth’s point of view - on August 8th, and slowly begins to climb into the evening sky. You’re unlikely to see it at all, however, unless you have a clear view low to the western horizon shortly after sunset. For Northern Hemisphere observers, this is the worst evening appearance of Mercury of the year. 

 

 

Mars begins the month in Virgo but crosses the border into Libra on the 10th. The planet starts out the month at magnitude +0.4, but dims to +0.6 by the 31st. Its view through a telescope is disappointing, as it shrinks from 8 arc-seconds to 7” wide during August.

 

 

Not so its neighbor, Saturn.  In fact, the two approach each other quite closely this month. Mars and Saturn lie within 4° of each other from the 20th to the 29th. Their closest approach occurs on the 27th, when Mars lies just 3.6° from Saturn. By then both will be of similar brightness – magnitude +0.6. Brightness difference aside, can you tell them apart by their color? Mars, of course, is reddish; Saturn should appear yellow-white. Certainly, though, as seen through a telescope, they could not be more different. Saturn’s disk is about 16” in diameter, with its magnificent ring system stretching 36” across. And, in contrast to the two moons of Mars – which are tiny and beyond the reach of most amateur telescopes – Saturn boasts a full retinue of satellites, up to half a dozen of which may be visible in larger scopes.

 

 

Neptune reaches opposition on August 29th, which means it’s at its closest, brightest, and largest of this entire year. For this remote planet, though, that is not saying much. The planet is almost 2.7 billion miles from us, shines at a feeble magnitude 7.8, and displays a disk no more than 2.4” across in a telescope. In smaller scopes, it may be difficult to distinguish from a star.

 

 

Neptune’s sister “ice giant”, Uranus, does slightly better. It rises about an hour and a half after Neptune, in the constellation Pisces. Even though it is not yet at opposition and therefore nearest to Earth, it is “only” 1.8 billion miles away. It is therefore brighter; at magnitude 5.8, it may even be within naked-eye range from dark sky sites. In a telescope, it displays a clear greyish-green disk about 3.6” wide.

 

 

Perhaps the most remarkable of planetary sights this month occurs in the morning sky, low in the east before dawn: a conjunction between Venus and Jupiter. During the first half of August, Venus rises first, about an hour and a half before the Sun. Jupiter follows about a half hour later. But day by day, they get closer. On the morning of the 18th, only 15 arc-minutes – or about half the width of the Full Moon – separate them. Venus, at magnitude -3.8 – will be the brighter of the two; Jupiter will muster a magnitude – 1.8. Both should be visible in the same field of view of the average telescope. Venus will display an almost full disk about 10” across, while Jupiter will be 32” across. However, don’t expect to see much detail in any case; the two will be quite low in the predawn sky, and morning twilight will be approaching. Following the conjunction, Venus and Jupiter “pass” each other in the sky, and for the rest of the month, it will be Jupiter that rises first.  

  

 

Dwarf Planets/Asteroids:

 

At midmonth, the dwarf planet/asteroid 1 Ceres and the asteroid 4 Vesta are about 3° apart, in the eastern part of Virgo.

 

 

Pluto is just past opposition, so this is a good time to try to search for it.  You’ll need a large telescope and detailed star charts. It shines no brighter than magnitude 14.1, and is in rich star fields in Sagittarius.

  

     


  •  

    What's New

  •  

  • A Super Moon !

     

     

    The moon takes 29.5 days to return to the same point on the celestial sphere every month – its so-called syndonic period. That means there are about 12 or 13 Full Moons in a year. The Moon’s orbit around the Earth is an ellipse, and the Full Moons don’t necessarily occur during perigee (when the Moon is closest to Earth). Inevitably, however, one of these Full Moons will occur when the Moon is nearer to perigee than at other times.

     

    One such case occurs this month; the Full Moon of August 10 will be the closest of the year. How close?

     

    Astronomers typically measure the distance between bodies as the distance between their centers (rather than their surfaces). At the Full Moon on August 10th, the centers of the Earth and Moon will be 221,765 miles apart. (The surfaces of the two bodies will be 216,068 miles apart.)

     

    How does this compare to the furthest Full Moon of 2014? The most distant Full Moon (when the Full Moon was near apogee – the farthest distance from Earth) occurred on January 15 of this year, when the centers of the bodies were 257,607 miles apart. 

     

    So this month’s Full Moon will be 35,842 miles closer than that of January. The difference in distance is 12.2%. If you saw both objects side by side, you could tell the difference. Lacking that, the two Moons will appear essentially the same in size. And, since the area of the Moon is a function of its diameter, the August Moon will be 26% brighter than that of January. Again, if you could see them side by side, you’d notice the difference, but when humans go on memory, the results are often unreliable.

     

    So, why is this August Full Moon called a “Super Moon”? The term seems to hark back to a reference in an astrology (yes – astrology!) article back in 1979. And given its pedigree, it has now become a loaded term, often accompanied by predictions of monster tides and assorted world disasters. The best thing we knowledgeable professional and amateur astronomers can do is to use it as a “teachable moment” to educate the public about what is really going on!

     

  • The approximate size of the Full Moon at apogee and at perigee (a “Super Moon”)

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August 2014 Star Chart

 

August 11, 2014 Star Chart

       10:00 PM EST

Looking at Zenith, South at Bottom

   

From areas with dark skies, one can see the Milky Way passing across the entire sky this month. Start by looking directly overhead, toward Cygnus and Lyra. Then trace the line of the subtle Milky Way all the way to Scorpius and Sagittarius. What we’re seeing is the plane of the galaxy in which we are embedded.  You don’t need a telescope to explore this area; a good pair of binoculars will do. You will basically be seeing what Galileo first saw when he first turned a telescope at the Milky Way. The diffuse glow is in fact composed of uncounted thousands of individual stars. The more you look, the more you will see! 

        


* Text, graphics, and animations by John Sheff. Graphics courtesy of Starry Night Pro Plus 6 / Imaginova Corp. Starry Night images are used with permission from Imaginova Corp.