By Dr. Bob Doyle, Frostburg State Planetarium

Garrett County Skies for August 2018

Venus & Jupiter low at dusk,  Saturn in South,  Mars at its brightest and Meteor Shower on 8/12-13

August opens with an Oakland sunrise at 6:17 a.m. and a 8:31 p.m. sunset. Daily sunlight then lasts 14.2 hours.  Each day, sunrises come a little bit later while sunsets come earlier. August ends with a 6:45 a.m. sunrise and a 7:52 p.m. sunset. Oakland then has 13.1 hours of daylight. In the first 9 days of August, the sun is in the star group Cancer. The sun then moves into the star group Leo. Both Cancer and Leo are lost in the sun’s glare in August. Twilight lasts an hour before sunrise and lasts an hour after sunset.

The brilliant planet Venus slowly gets lower in the western dusk as its setting time drops from 2 hours to 1.3 hours after sunset during August.  The bright planet Jupiter can be seen through the evening hours, moving from the South to the Southwest. The planet Saturn is in the South in the late evening hours, appearing above the ‘tea kettle’ of Sagittarius. Most striking is the yellow-orange planet Mars seen low in the East Southeast as it gets dark. During August, Mars will outshine Jupiter. At the end of August, the innermost planet Mercury can be seen low in the eastern dawn.

One of the year’s best meteor shower will occur on the evening of August 12th and the early morning of August 13th. A meteor shower occurs when the Earth plows across the orbit of a comet and gets bombed by comet debris. The comet for this shower is Comet Swift Tuttle. Any comet whose orbit takes it close to the sun will experience a meltdown of its outer layers whose gas and grit are spread along its orbit.  Each year at the same date, the Earth encounters this comet debris and night sky observers may see ‘shooting stars’. The meteors in this shower seem to come out of the star group Perseus in the northern sky. As many as several dozen meteors each hour may be seen. The best way to see the most meteors is to lie flat on a tarp in a dark area. These meteors may be seen in any of the four compass directions.  This meteor shower, called the ‘Perseids” is one of the most popular showers because of its hourly rate and occurrence on warm nights.

The moon starts August four days past full and quite ‘chubby’ in the late evening sky. On August 4, the moon appears half full in the southern dawn, shaped like a reversed ‘D’). On Saturday, August 11, the moon’s motion carries it from the morning to the evening side of the sun (New Moon). On August 14, the crescent moon will appear above the brilliant planet Venus in the western dusk. On August 17, the moon will appear above the bright planet Jupiter in the Southwest. On August 18, the evening moon will appear half full (like a ‘D’).  Along the left straight edge of the moon, the sun there is rising, lighting the crater rims and elevations.  On August 21, the moon will appear above the planet Saturn. On August 26, the moon is full, appearing above the planet Mars in the southeastern sky.