Magazine article Natural History

August Nights Out

Magazine article Natural History

August Nights Out

Article excerpt

1 Mars is slowly, very slowly, returning to dawn visibility, beginning its biennial climb out of the solar glare. The Red Planet rises 70 minutes before the Sun this morning, and will improve to two hours before sunup by month's end. Look for it in the east-northeast, below Castor and Pollux in Gemini. Binoculars will help: Mars is currently dim (+1.7 magnitude) and distant, 239 million miles from Earth. By the end of next May it will be more than five times closer and will appear more than 30 times brighter.

6 The Moon wanes to last quarter at 10:03 p.m. EDT.

7 The planets Mercury and Jupiter and the blue 1st-magnitude star Regulus cluster together into a tight triangle less than 1.5 degrees wide; a spectacular sight indeed, but all but invisible to those living north of the equator. From the southern hemisphere this stunning trio is easy to detect in the dusk, well above the horizon. But from the U.S., Europe and Japan, Jupiter is lost in the Sun's glare, heading for conjunction with the Sun on the 26th. As for Mercury, its visibility will improve only marginally during August; it is barely visible during the last days of the month, setting less than an hour after the Sun.

13 The Perseid meteor shower peaks early this morning [see story above].

14 The Moon is new at 10:53 a.m. EDT.

15 Venus is in conjunction with the Sun. This is its inferior conjunction, meaning that it's on the near side of its orbit to us, passing closer than any other planet can. …

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