August 2017

Welcome to SkyEye, your guide to this month's celestial events.

The Calendar

Date Event
Tuesday 1
Wednesday 2 Moon at apogee
Thursday 3
Friday 4
Saturday 5
Sunday 6
Monday 7 Full Moon in a partial lunar eclipse
Tuesday 8
Wednesday 9 Moon occults Neptune: visible from Antarctic and western Australia, beginning around 22:00 UT.
Thursday 10
Friday 11
Saturday 12 The waning gibbous Moon illuminates the sky when the radiant of the Perseid meteor shower is at a reasonable altitude, interfering with observations. The traditional peak occurs between 14:00 UT today and 02:30 UT tomorrow.
Sunday 13
Monday 14
Tuesday 15 Last Quarter Moon
Wednesday 16 Moon occults Aldebaran: visible from northern South America and Caribbean, beginning around 04:50 UT.
Thursday 17
Friday 18 Moon at perigee
Saturday 19
Sunday 20
Monday 21 New Moon in a total solar eclipse
Tuesday 22
Wednesday 23
Thursday 24
Friday 25
Saturday 26 Mercury at inferior conjunction
Sunday 27
Monday 28
Tuesday 29 First Quarter Moon
Wednesday 30 Moon at the nearest apogee of the year
Thursday 31

The Solar System

The word planet is derived from the Greek word for 'wanderer'. Unlike the background stars, planets seem to move around the sky, keeping mostly to a narrow track called the ecliptic, the path of the Sun across the stars. Dwarf planets and small solar-system bodies, including comets, are not so constrained, often moving far above or below the ecliptic.

Sun CancerLeo

Mercury LeoSextansLeo

Mercury sinks quickly in the evening sky and is gone from view early in the month for northern hemisphere observers. It lasts a little longer for those watching from southern latitudes but the tiny planet eventually disappears as it heads for inferior conjunction on 26 August.

Venus OrionGeminiCancer

Lingering high in the dawn sky as seen from the northern hemisphere, the morning star is rapidly losing altitude above the eastern horizon for southern latitudes.

Mars CancerLeo

The red planet was at conjunction with the Sun late last month and is lost to view in solar glare this month. It reappears in the morning sky in October.

Jupiter Virgo

Jupiter sets by mid-evening. Look for it in the west as the sky darkens.

Saturn Ophiuchus

The ringed planet is easier to observe than its neighbour Jupiter. Southern hemisphere observers get the best views but planet spotters in the northern hemisphere also have a chance to see Saturn before it sets around midnight.

Uranus Pisces

Uranus rises mid-evening and is aloft for the rest of the night.

Neptune Aquarius

A small telescope is necessary to view the most distant planet in the solar system and this is the best time to look because Neptune is at opposition early next month, meaning it's at its closest and brightest. Some observers in the southern hemisphere will see the Moon occult Neptune on 9 August.

The Celestial Sphere

Constellations are patterns of stars in the sky. The International Astronomical Union recognises 88 different constellations. The brightest stars as seen from the Earth are easy to spot but do you know their proper names? With a set of binoculars you can look for fainter objects such as nebulae and galaxies and star clusters or some of the closest stars to the Sun.

Descriptions of the sky for observers in both the northern and southern hemispheres are available for the following times this month. Subtract one hour from your local time if summer (daylight savings) time is in effect.

Local Time Northern Hemisphere Southern Hemisphere
1730 hours (1830 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S
1930 hours (2030 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S
2130 hours (2230 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S
2330 hours (0030 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S
0130 hours (0230 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S
0330 hours (0430 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S
0530 hours (0630 hours summer time) 45° N 30° S