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Nighttrek Report: What to See in the August Sky

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By Neill Simmons

The highlight of August is the “Super Blue Moon” on Wednesday, August 30.  A blue Moon means it is the second full Moon of a calendar month.  The first full moon was on Aug 1.  

FUN FACT:  The Moon has more impact on our ocean waves than the Sun because the Moon is closer to Earth by 92,700,000 miles.  

The famous Perseid meteor shower will be at its best this year on Saturday and Sunday, August 12 and 13.  If possible, make sure to get away from the city lights by going to the beach or to mountain areas.  The meteor shower lasts all night long until dawn.  More meteors can be seen in the morning hours from 3 to 5:30 am.  The Sun will rise about 6:15 am. Meteorites come from many different areas in outer space, such as the Moon or Mercury.  Meteorite traders get the most money from Mars meteorites!

The ring planet Saturn makes a bright comeback in August.  Saturn can be seen in the southwest with the naked eye.  Watch each night as it gets brighter and brighter and will peak on the 27th of August.  

The beautiful rings can be seen with a telescope.  Saturn is a gas giant. This means, unlike Earth, it doesn’t have a solid surface. In fact its surface is mainly made of helium, the same gas you find in birthday balloons.  Saturn is in the constellation Aquarius. 

The fastest planet, Mercury, can be seen on Thursday, August 10,  low in the west.  Start looking after 8:15 pm.  Binoculars will help to spot this small but bright planet.

DAWN PATROL: The largest planet in our Solar System is Jupiter. It is extremely bright now and is visible before the Sun comes up. 

The Zodiac constellation Scorpius towers in the south after dark.  It is in a beautiful “S” formation which is the scorpion’s tail.  Look for a red star, Antares, which the ancients thought was the heart of the scorpion. Make sure to look on August 24 when the Moon will appear to be almost touching Antares. This phenomenon is called a lunar occultation.

Make sure to look at the Big Dipper as it is hanging down by its handle.  If you get out of the city lights, look north to see the Little Dipper. 

FUN FACT:  There were 14 missions total during the Apollo Space Program between 1961 and 1972. All the Apollo mission space ships took 72 hours to lift off and orbit the Moon.  Apollo 8 set the record for this feat at 69 hours.

Saturday, August 12, try to get to one of the best “Star Parties” in California! This event is in the  town of Julian in the San Diego County mountains.  The “Julian Star Fest”  will have many telescopes set up by the San Diego Astronomy Association.  This is a free event.

When not stargazing, Neill Simmons is a Wealth Advisor with LPL Financial in Woodland Hills. If you have any astronomy or financial questions, he may be reached at (818) 936-2626 or emailed at neill.simmons@lpl. com.

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