Night Skies for July and August 2003

Jupiter is now very low in the western sky and will start to get lost in the glare of the sun by August, slowly moving back into the morning sky.

Saturn is already moving into the morning sky, dimly seen just before sunrise, but it will be more prominent by the end of August.

Venus is starting to move into the evening sky and will be see brightly above the horizon by the end of August, readily visible well into the late fall.

Mars is heading towards opposition and will be the brightest for more than a dozen years, as it is now very, very close to the Earth. Between 40 and 34 million miles during July and August. Shinning a brilliant red rising in the East around sunset and setting in the west just before sunrise.

This is also the best time to see Mars in a small telescope, as it will have a very large disk size, comparable to Saturn in disk size, but without the rings.

Neptune and Uranus are placed close to Mars in the evening sky, but these are very dim objects that require a good telescope sporting an equatorial mount, along with position charts in Right Ascension and Declination. These are not all that spectacular, even in a telescope.

One of the most prominent, regular meteor shows occurs in mid-August, the Perseids. With maximum counts sometime between August 12 and 14th in the early morning hours. The moon, however, is just past full on the morning of August 13th which will severely hamper view of this shower, which is best seen in darkened skies of the rural area. In the cities you can still expect to see 10 to 20 meteors at peak on a moonless night. This year the view won’t be all that spectacular, but if you’re around look up into the Northern sky and look for bright streaks of light to move across the sky after midnight.

There is potentially a very brilliant comet coming to our skies by the start of next year. Predictions such of these have left us with some disappointments in the past, but some astronomers feel this object will be easily seen later this year and early next year.


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