August Skychart

Aug. 1: The waning gibbous moon tonight is at apogee, most distant from Earth. Look below the moon for the stars of Sagittarius, arranged as a ''Teapot, '' with the moon just above the ''lid.''

Aug. 4: The full moon is in Capricornus, but the brightness of the moon makes it difficult to see the constellation.

Aug. 7: The waning moon rises almost two hours after sunset. About midnight, look above the moon for the Square of Pegasus, then down along its sides past the moon to the bright stars Fomalhaut (to the right) and Diphda (to the left).

Aug. 9: Mars passes Jupiter tonight, moving from right to left past the brighter planet. Only a month ago Mars was to the right (west) of Saturn, Spica, and Jupiter in the evening sky. Now, much dimmer than it was last spring, it is to the left (east) of all, moving rapidly away from them.

Aug. 10 and 11: Venus, very bright and low in the east at dawn, is virtually in line with Castor and Pollux (the ''twin'' stars of Gemini), but well below Pollux.

Aug. 12: Last-quarter moon, with the dim stars of the Pleiades (Seven Sisters) above it. The reliable and productive Perseid meteor shower (50 or more an hour) is at maximum today. Best viewing nights are Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday (after midnight, of course). Moonlight will interfere, especially toward morning as it rises higher, but the brighter meteors for which this shower is noted should be easy hunting.

Aug. 17: The perigee moon (nearest Earth) is close to Venus this morning at dawn.

Aug. 18: New moon.

Aug. 21: The young, crescent moon should easily be visible tonight, low in the west during twilight. As darkness deepens, look to its left, where Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars curve up the sky along the ecliptic (Earth's orbital plane), with the bright star Spica between Saturn and Jupiter.

Aug. 22: The moon is between Saturn and Spica tonight. After the moon moves off, keep your eyes on Saturn and the star. Watch as the planet, moving slowly to the left, well above Spica, draws slowly closer. Saturn is heading for the third and last event in the triple conjunction with Spica that began last January. More about this in September, when Saturn finally catches and passes the star. But now is the time to anticipate the third conjunction by watching during its approach.

Aug. 23: The moon passes south of Jupiter tonight, then below Mars during the day on the 24th.

Aug. 25: The first-quarter moon is in Scorpius. The reddish star below the moon is Antares. The moon is closer to Scorpius, above to its left, on the night of the 26th.

Aug. 28-31: The waxing moon is again in Sagittarius on the 28th, at apogee on the 29th, and in Capricornus on the 30th and 31st.

All month: Jupiter is the brightest evening star this month, easily seen each clear night in the southwest from dusk until it sets several hours later. Its two planet companions of this summer, Saturn and Mars, are still with it, but the fine display the trio have been putting on since last winter is just about to come to an end. The culprit in closing the drama is Mars. Now well past the opposition that made it so bright and prominent last March, it is separating rapidly from Earth, causing it to grow dimmer and to move eastward swiftly through the stars. In August it moves through Virgo and Libra, past Saturn, Spica, and Jupiter. At the end of the month, it is moving swiftly away from Jupiter toward the star Spica, in Antares. It will continue to dim through the rest of the year, as its pace eastward accelerates. Obscure through all of 1983, Mars will return again as a morning star in 1984 when another opposition with the sun takes place.

Venus is best as a morning star this month during the current cycle of its configurations, though this is not a good morning elongation, even now. Still, you should be able to see it any clear morning from dawn until it fades into the brightening daylight, low in the east.

August is Perseid meteor shower month, the best shower of the year. If you haven't tried meteor watching yet, this is the one to begin with. The best dates are the 11th, 12th, 13th, and 14th, from about 1 a.m. until dawn. Ordinarily on these mornings you can see from 30 to 50 meteors an hour, many of them very bright, popping and flashing as they streak across the sky. Light from the waning moon will limit viewing of fainter objects. Choose a viewing location away from lights, without trees or buildings to hide the sky. Sit or lie in a lounging chair, scanning slowly through as much of the sky as you can, paying attention to peripheral vision. Don't concentrate on Perseus. Though the radiant of the stream is in that direction, meteors will appear throughout the sky.

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