These warm August nights offer plenty of good viewing. No fewer than five planets show up soon after sunset. Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter adorn the deepening twilight in the west all month. The vista reaches a dramatic peak when the latter two worlds pass within 0.1° of each other on the 27th. Meanwhile, the telescopic gems Mars and Saturn dominate the southern sky. Finally, the Perseid meteor shower puts on an impressive performance in the predawn hours of August 12.
Our tour of Earth’s night sky begins in early evening twilight. As August opens, Mercury
, and Jupiter
form a straight line. Venus lies closest to the horizon while Mercury appears to its upper left and Jupiter stands highest. Venus shines brilliantly at magnitude –3.8 and should show up nicely without optical aid a half-hour after sunset. Jupiter glows more dimly, at magnitude –1.7, but its greater altitude makes it an easy target. You’ll likely need binoculars to spot magnitude –0.1 Mercury 8° to Venus’ upper left.
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