Friday, August 6, 2010

August Skies showcase Planets and Meteors

Patrick Wiggins, NASA/ JPL Solar System Ambassador to Utah shares some exciting information about the night skies--

Planets Gather

The planets Venus, Mars and Saturn continue to gather in our evening western skies. They'll be closest to each other this coming weekend. A good time to watch will be right around 9:30 p.m. Any earlier and the sky will be too bright to see the fainter Mars and Saturn. Much later and Venus will have set.

In case you haven't seen it already, here's a quick animation showing the planets' movements:

The annual Perseids (purr'-see-ids) meteor shower is predicted to reach its peak the afternoon of Thursday the 12th of August. The skies will be too light for meteor watching at that time so Utahns' best chances to watch the shower may be in the early predawn hours of the 12th or between midnight the night of the 12th and dawn on the 13th.

Thursday evening will almost certainly be a bad time to watch. In fact evenings are almost always a bad time to watch any meteor shower as during evenings we are on the wrong side of the planet. It's only around midnight that the Earth has turned enough that we start to face the oncoming meteoroid swarm.

You may also want to check out this article from Sky & Telescope magazine:

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