The Moon could disturb the Perseids: Saturn is especially close in August

The Moon could disturb the Perseids
Saturn is particularly close in August

August offers stargazers a particularly good chance to admire Saturn. It comes relatively close to the earth. And, of course, the month of shooting stars also offers a beautiful celestial spectacle – this year, however, with one limitation.

In early August, the crescent of the waxing moon is already visible at dusk. You can still observe the appearance of ashen moonlight. The crescent moon reflects sunlight. But even the part of the moon that is not illuminated by the sun is not completely dark, but shimmers pale. It is the reflected earth light. Because around the time of the new moon, the earth appears almost fully illuminated as seen from the moon. For astronauts on the moon, the full earth phase would appear.

Day by day, the crescent grows thicker, until the moon finally becomes half-illuminated at 5. The Full Moon appears at 3:36 AM. of the 12th. Just two days earlier, the Moon approaches Earth, only 359,828 kilometers from us, while it remains 405,418 kilometers away on the 22nd.

Just to the north, above the full moon, shines Saturn, which is directly opposite the sun on the 14th. Like the full moon, Saturn can be seen all night. Both stars rise in the east when the sun sinks below the horizon in the west, reach their highest position in the south at midnight, and set in the west in the morning. Since the Moon and Saturn are opposite the Sun as seen from Earth, we speak of a position of opposition or simply opposition to the Sun.

Saturn is “only” 1325 million kilometers away

Now it is especially favorable to observe the ringed planet, because it is “only” 1325 million kilometers from Earth. This corresponds to almost nine times the distance between the earth and the sun. Light travels this distance in one hour and 14 minutes. Saturn is the second largest planet in our solar system. Its diameter is ten times greater than that of the terrestrial sphere. As a result of its rapid rotation, Saturn is seriously flattened. A Saturnian day lasts only ten and a half hours.

Saturn’s magnificent ring system cannot be seen with the naked eye. It was only discovered after the invention of the telescope in the early 17th century. For those who have never seen Saturn’s rings with their own eyes, this is a great opportunity to observe the ring system. You need a telescope with at least 30x magnification. It’s also worth a visit to an observatory to see Saturn’s ring.

Images from space probes show that Saturn’s ring is made up of hundreds of individual rings. It is made up of billions and billions of ice pieces from the size of a grain of dust to the size of a house, orbiting the Saturn sphere. Some of the ice particles rain down on Saturn’s surface. In about 100 million years there will be no more rings of Saturn. Saturn is the farthest planet from the sun that can still be seen with the naked eye. The ringed planet has been on its way for nearly 30 years to orbit the sun once. Humans rarely live more than three Saturn years. Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, is seen through binoculars.

Jupiter shines all night

After the full moon phase, our moon changes in the second half of the night. You will look for him in the evening sky in vain. One day after the full moon, the earth’s satellite encounters the giant planet Jupiter. Jupiter gradually becomes the planet of the night and attracts attention with its brilliance. Before Venus appears in the morning sky, Jupiter is the brightest star in the night sky—except for the moon, of course.

On the 19th, the waning moon meets our reddish-yellow neighbor planet Mars, which is also represented in the constellation in the second half of the night. Marsh’s brightness increases sharply in August. At the end of the month, Mars rises a quarter of an hour after 11 p.m. Finally, on the 27th at 10:17 AM, the new moon phase occurs.

A shooting star shines in front of the Milky Way in the sky above Lake Walchen.

(Photo: picture alliance/dpa)

August is popularly known as the shooting star month. It owes its fame to the Perseid meteor shower, which is expected to peak between August 9 and 13. Bright meteors, so-called bolides or fireballs, are not uncommon. Shooting star activity is predicted to peak on the night of the 12th-13th, with up to a hundred shooting stars expected. This year, however, the bright moonlight is disturbing the observations.

The best viewing time is from 11:00 PM to 4:00 AM. Perseid stream meteors are fast moving objects. They penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere at about 60 kilometers per second, which corresponds to 216,000 kilometers per hour. The Perseids are caused by a cloud of debris from Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, which encounters Earth every year as it orbits the Sun.

Summer triangle, swan and dolphin

The glittering ribbon of the summer Milky Way stretches high across the firmament. You need a dark night sky to see it. The delicately glowing band of the Milky Way, made up of thousands and thousands of twinkling stars, is a natural phenomenon rarely seen in our time.


The fixed starry sky in August.

(Photo: dpa)

The Summer Triangle is now high in the south for the evening viewing time. Vega is almost at the zenith on the lyre. Next to the lyre the swan spreads its wings. It is marked by a large cross of stars known as the Northern Cross. Its main star is called Deneb. The third star of the Summer Triangle is Atair in the Eagle, 16 light-years away, a neighboring star to our Sun. A little to the east of the swan is the small but recognizable image of the dolphin. Pegasus Square rises slowly into the eastern sky. Pegasus is the guiding star of the autumn sky. To the northeast, Cassiopeia, the celestial W, is slowly gaining height.

The sun moves along the descending branch of its annual path. On the morning of the 11th it leaves the constellation of Cancer and moves into Leo. On the same day it enters the sign Virgo early in the morning. The sun’s noon elevation will drop a little more than nine degrees, and day length will shrink by one hour and 51 minutes at 50 degrees north.

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