August to offer skygazers wide array of highly-anticipated astronomy events
The final supermoon of 2022 will rise just as the dog days of summer come to a close, but it could have a negative effect on a separate hotly anticipated astronomical event.
This August will feature a supermoon, a meteor shower, a gas giant's close encounter and a celestial gathering. Mark these events down on your stargazing calendar!
The conclusion of the dog days of summer will kick off a flurry of astronomical events in the night sky, including two highly-anticipated events unfolding at the same time.
The dog days of summer are more than just a nickname for what is typically the hottest part of the year in the Northern Hemisphere -- it has roots in astronomy.
A dog runs along the Baltic Sea in Haffkrug, northern Germany. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
Between July 3 and Aug. 11, the bright star Sirius, also called the Dog Star, is in the same region of the sky as the sun. In ancient times, it was believed that the added starlight from Sirius added to the heat of the day, according to the Old Farmer's Almanac. While this ancient theory has been debunked, the phrase has stuck around in the vernacular of forecasters over the years.
From one of the most popular meteor showers to great views of the ringed jewel of the solar system, here are the top astronomy events to mark on your calendar in August:
Final supermoon of 2022 to glow bright
Supermoon season is about to come to a close with the third and final one of the year set to rise on Thursday, Aug. 11.
Although supermoons appear slightly bigger and brighter than other full moons, the difference can be difficult to notice with the naked eye. After a string of supermoons in June, July and August, the next one will not rise until July 3, 2023.
The full moon rises behind buildings in the banking district in Frankfurt, Germany, late Tuesday, June 14, 2022. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
August's full moon is also known as the Sturgeon Moon, the Corn Moon, the Black Cherries Moon and the Mountain Shadows Moon, according to the Old Farmer's Almanac.
Perseid meteor shower returns
At the start of every year, stargazers flip through their calendars and mark down the dates of big astronomy events ranging from eclipses to planetary alignments. The annual Perseids meteor shower is usually one of these can't-miss events, although this year's edition of the Perseids will fall well short of expectations.
When conditions are perfect, the Perseids can boast up to 100 meteors per hour, one of the highest hourly rates of any annual meteor shower. Unfortunately, the peak of this year's event will coincide with a supermoon.
A meteor associated with the Perseids streaked across the night sky with the Milky Way as a backdrop on Aug. 12, 2016. (Kees Scherer)
The moonlight will significantly reduce the number of shooting stars visible on the night of Aug. 11 into the early morning of Aug. 12 although some shooting stars should still be bright enough to spot.
For the best chance of seeing the Perseids, it is recommended to focus on dark areas of the sky without the full moon in sight. Some meteors may be visible shortly after nightfall, but meteor activity is likely to crest after midnight, local time.
Saturn to reach opposition
Throughout the first half of 2022, people wanting to get a glimpse of a planet in the night sky have had to wake up before the crack of dawn as every planet visible to the naked eye -- Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn -- have been early-morning objects. However, by mid-August, Saturn will make its return to the evening sky in grand fashion.
About once a year, Saturn reaches opposition. This is the point in its orbit when it appears opposite of the sun from the perspective of the Earth. This is also around the same point in its orbit when it is closest to the Earth, making the ringed planet appear brighter than any other time of the year.
No telescope is needed to spot Saturn, but the weeks surrounding opposition present the best opportunity to use a telescope to get a glimpse of its famous rings.
Although the Saturn opposition occurs on Aug. 14, any night with cloud-free weather throughout August will be a good time to view the planet. The planet will be visible all night long, rising in the East around nightfall and setting in the West around daybreak.
Moon and Mars to meet before sunrise
August features the final supermoon of 2022, but one of the best nights of the month to observe the moon will occur about one week after it rises.
Planets and the moon are not to scale. (AccuWeather)
Before daybreak on Friday, Aug. 19, the moon will meet up with Mars and the two will appear extremely close together. The duo will shine in the eastern sky above the constellation Orion. Jupiter will also be visible in the same region of the sky above and to the right of Mars and the moon.
The celestial pairing will once again be side-by-side in the early hours of Saturday, Aug. 20, but they will not appear as close as the night prior.
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