Night sky in August

TOM WHELAN
Last updated 07:41 31/07/2012

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Night Sky

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Sun: Our days lengthen considerably as the month progresses. The Sun reaches a maximum elevation of about 37 degrees at noon.

Moon: Full Moon occurs on August 2, followed by last quarter on the 10th. New Moon falls on August 18, with first quarter on the 25th.

Planets:

Mercury has moved back into the morning sky, but will be too close to the Sun to be seen.

Venus rises about 4.30am and appears as a brilliant star in the north-eastern sky. The planet moves from Taurus into Orion, and then into Gemini, where it will be between the stars of Castor and Pollux. On the 14th, the crescent Moon is within one degree of Venus.

Mars and Saturn remain very close together this month. Although both are now low in the north-western evening sky, they are easy to pick out, being less than five degrees apart. Between the two, a little to their left, is the equally bright Spica. On August 22, the Moon joins the trio.

Jupiter rises about 2.45am and is well-positioned for viewing by dawn. It has moved further from Venus, which rises later. The planet is in the constellation of Taurus. On August 12, the Moon will be within one degree of Jupiter.

Stars and constellations:

The evening sky is dominated by the constellations of Scorpio and Sagittarius. They and their rich starfields are almost directly overhead.

This area of the heavens has a large number of nebulae, including both the Lagoon and Triffid Nebulae.

In the northern sky are Bootes, which is setting, Hercules and Lyra.

The bright star due north, just above the horizon, is Vega.

The southern sky has both the Southern Cross and Centaurus in the south-west. The two bright stars of Achernar and Fomalhaut are to be found in the south-east.

Early morning risers will notice Orion, and other summer constellations, low in the eastern sky.

Prepared for the Taranaki Daily News by Tom Whelan, Cape Egmont Observatory.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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