Celestial Navigator – August 2014

There are few things more enjoyable during a night in camp than staring at the night sky.  Now you can be a celestial expert and dazzle your camp mates with your night sky knowledge.  There’s lots going in the July night sky, so grab your telescope and your tent and get out there!

  • August 10 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 18:09 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Sturgeon Moon because the large sturgeon fish of the Great Lakes and other major lakes were more easily caught at this time of year. This moon has also been known as the Green Corn Moon and the Grain Moon. This is also the closest and largest full Moon of the year, an annual event that has come to be known as a “supermoon” by the media. The truth is that it is only slightly larger and brighter than normal and most people are not really able to tell the difference.
  • August 12, 13 – Perseids Meteor Shower. The Perseids is one of the best meteor showers to observe, producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by comet Swift-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1862. The Perseids are famous for producing a large number of bright meteors. The shower runs annually from July 17 to August 24. It peaks this year on the night of August 12 and the morning of August 13. The waning gibbous moon will block out some of the meteors this year, but the Perseids are so bright and numerous that it should still be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Perseus, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • August 18 – Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter. Conjunctions are rare events where two or more objects will appear extremely close together in the night sky. The two bright planets will come unusually close to each other, only a quarter of a degree, in the early morning sky. Also, the beehive cluster in the constellation Cancer will be only 1 degree away. This rare, double-planet event is definitely one not to miss. Look for the bright planets in the east just before sunrise.
  • August 25 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 14:13 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • August 29 – Neptune at Opposition. The blue giant planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph Neptune. Due to its extreme distance from Earth, it will only appear as a tiny blue dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.

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