August to showcase Perseid meteor shower, “Black Moon” and more

August to showcase Perseid meteor shower, “Black Moon” and more

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One of the most-awaited meteor showers of the year is gracing the night sky this August—the Perseids.

This meteor shower is a crowd favorite because it offers its audience the brightest streaks of meteors or “shooting stars” in the sky.

Here in the Emirates, the Perseids’ peak will be on August 13, a Tuesday. This means this shower could bring an average of 50 meteors in the night sky per hour, under completely dark, moonless, and cloudless skies.

The meteor shower got its name from its “radiant,” or the point where the meteors seem to originate, which is the constellation of Perseus and this is albeit close by the famous Double Cluster.

The position of Perseids radiant (Image Credit: Stellarium, theskyscrapers.org)

Sporadic Meteor and Milky Way Central Region taken from Al Sadeem Observatory last August 13, 2017 (Image Credit: Thabet Al Qaissieh/Al Sadeem Astronomy)

Unfortunately, though, a gibbous Moon nearing its full phase will also take the stage around the time of the Perseids’ peak. This would drown a lot of Perseids’ bright streaks.

But fret not skywatchers. Perseid meteor shower can still be observed (amid this clammy, warm weather) despite the moonlight. It will just ask for more patience and perseverance from its avid audience. To begin with, meteor showers go on for a course of a full month. Ergo, one can begin hunting for Perseids as early as August 9, when the Moon is still not that glaring.

Don’t forget to give it at least an hour of observing time, because the meteors come out sporadically.

Meanwhile, sunrises this month can either begin at 5:50 A.M.until 6:03 A.M., while sunsets can start at 6:42 P.M.until 7:06 P.M.

What else should we watch out for in the night sky this month?

AUGUST IS BOOKENDED WITH NEW MOONS

The month opens with a New Moon, so several deep-sky objects such as nebulae, star clusters, and galaxies can be clearly seen through binoculars, cameras with wide-angle or zoom lens and big telescopes.

Look out for the Eagle Nebula, Lagoon Nebula, Trifid Nebula, and—of course—the Milky Way Galaxy, which can all be seen in the early evening hours until early morning hours.

On August 15, the Moon goes into its full phase, a perfect day for selenophiles—or those who love the moon—to observe the surface of this celestial object, including the craters and the large, dark, basaltic plains known as lunar maria. Catch the Earth’s satellite as early as 7 P.M. at the east-southeastern horizon of the sky.

Full Moon taken from Al Sadeem Observatory last April 19, 2019 (Credit: AldrinGabuya/Al Sadeem Astronomy Observatory)

If the second full Moon in a month is called a “Blue Moon,” the second new moon of the month is called a “Black Moon.” August happens to have another Black Moon on its last day (August 31).

PLANETS RISE EARLY THIS MONTH

Jupiter and Saturn will be visible right after sunset until 12 A.M. and 2:15 A.M., respectively.

In fact, on August 10, there will be a Moon – Jupiter conjunction. The pair will be seen in the southern part of the sky—in between constellations Scorpius and Sagittarius—as early as 7:11 P.M. until 12:36 A.M.

Moon-Jupiter Conjunction on August 10, 2019, at around 8:00 PM (not to scale) (Graphic Courtesy of Stellarium)

Two nights later (August 12), there will be a Moon – Saturn conjunction which will be also seen along the southern part of the sky—within the constellation Sagittarius (the archer)—as early as 7:11 P.M. until 3:10 A.M.

Moon-Jupiter Conjunction on August 12, 2019, at around 8:30 PM (not to scale) (Graphic Courtesy of Stellarium)

Uranus and Neptune could be seen later at night starting using a more powerful telescope from 11 P.M. onwards until dawn.

Meanwhile, terrestrial planets Mercury, Venus, and Mars are highly unlikely to be visible this month because of their positions in the sky—pretty much near the Sun this season. Ergo, Mercury’s greatest western elongation on August 9 will be a tough one to observe. In the UAE, the maximum extent of angular separation from the Sun as seen from Earth will be at 13°.

Mercury at Greatest Western Elongation (about 13° above the eastern horizon) few minutes before sunrise on August 9, 2019 (not to scale) (Image Credit: Stellarium)

Summer Deep Sky Objects. Top: Eagle Nebula, Lagoon and Trifid Nebulae. Bottom: Milky Way Central Region (Image Credit: Thabet Al Qaissieh/Al Sadeem Astronomy)

REFERENCES

Astronomy Calendar of Celestial Events 2019. (n.d.). Retrieved from Sea and Sky: www.seasky.org/astronomy/astronomy-calendar-2019.html

Calendar of Astronomical Events. (n.d.). Retrieved from In-The-Sky.org: http://in-the-sky.org/newscal.php?year=2019&month=8&maxdiff=4#datesel

Islamic calendar 2019. (n.d.). Retrieved from Calendar.sk: https://calendar.zoznam.sk/islamic_calendar-en.php?ly=2019

Perseids Meteor Shower 2019 (n.d.). Retrieved from timeanddate.com: https://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/meteor-shower/perseid.html

Sunrise and sunset times in Abu Dhabi, August 2019. (n.d.). Retrieved from timeanddate.com: https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/united-arab-emirates/abu-dhabi?month=8&year=2019

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