Title: August Skywatch Highlights
Location: Hawaiian Islands
Date / Time: August 2012
Comments: Behold our spectacular summer skies! Glorious bands of Milky Way stars illuminate our dark Hawaiian sky with a rich, "milky" haze. High in the northern sky, the three bright stars of the Summer Triangle are easy to spot: ALTAIR, in Aquila the Eagle; VEGA, in Lyra the Harp; & DENEB, in Cygnus the Swan. Scorpius, the giant Scorpion, & Sagittarius, the Archer, display boldly toward the south. SATURN shines in the western evening sky throughout August. The ringed planet appears in the constellation Virgo the Maiden, just a few degrees NE of Spica, Virgo's brightest star. Notice Saturn's golden hue, compared to blue-white Spica. Saturn's rings open wider than they've been since 2007, tilting at 14 degrees to our line of sight from Earth, & affording impressive views through even a small telescope. You might be able see the Cassini Division, a dark gap that separates the outer A ring from the broader & brighter B ring. Small telescopes also reveal some of Saturn's moons, including 8th magnitude Titan, the biggest & brightest. Saturn & Spica form a lovely triangle with MARS this month. Mars appears farthest to the west, but drifts steadily eastward against the background stars of Virgo. On Aug. 7th, the 3 form a neat equilateral triangle, 4 degrees on each side. Watch each night as Mars moves closer to Spica & Saturn, then passes between them on Aug. 13 & 14; when the three form a nearly straight line. Mars then quickly appears to bypass Saturn and, by August 31st, trails 10 degrees behind Saturn & Spica, on its way to glide into Libra on September 3rd. The trio then sets within two hours of the Sun. Note Mars' distinct orange-red hue, in contrast to blue-white Spica, and the subtle golden glow of Saturn. VENUS and JUPITER, the brightest points of light in the sky, are stunning together in the early morning sky, against the background stars of Taurus, the Bull.* On Aug. 1st, shimmering Jupiter, (mag. minus -1.9), rises at 2AM, with a much brighter Venus, (mag minus -4.3), rising about an hour later. At mid-month, MERCURY joins this splendid morning scene, as both Venus & Mercury, reach elongation, their greatest angular distances west of the Sun. On August 15th, look for the tiny bright (mag. 0.2) innermost planet to rise at 5AM, about an hour before the Sun, in Cancer the Crab. *At around this time, Venus crosses from Taurus into Gemini, & closes the month 9-degrees south of Pollux, the Twins' brightest star. AUGUST SKYWATCH UPDATE IN PROGRESS... For an August Hawaiian sky map, visit Bishop Museum Planetarium www.bishopmuseum.org/planetarium (bishopmuseum.org).

Maintained by Roz Reiner - Kauai, Hawaii

 

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