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What's in the Sky — August 2019

Warm summer nights seem like they're tailor-made for backyard astronomers. Evenings throughout August are great opportunities to get the whole family outside for summer stargazing fun with a telescope or your favorite pair of binoculars. Here are a few of Orion's top picks for August stargazing:

Perseid Meteor Shower
Go outside on the night of August 12th-13th for the best chances to see the peak of the Perseid meteor shower! Some may be visible each night from July 23rd through August 20th, but the peak is on the 12th -13th. Unfortunately the Moon will be 12 days old at this time, which will limit visibility due to its brightness. However, with up to 80 meteors per hour expected at maximum, this is still one of the most popular meteor showers of the year.

Mercury high in the sky
On the morning of August 9th Mercury will be at its greatest Western elongation, rising early before sunrise. Because Mercury is so close to the Sun, it is best viewed during an elongation like this, since it is at its maximum separation from the Sun. Look above the Eastern horizon before sunrise to catch a glimpse of the innermost planet!

August Close Approaches

The Moon & Jupiter2°25'16:46 PDTAugust 9
The Moon & Saturn0°56'02:53 PDTAugust 12
The Moon & M440°33'05:13 PDTAugust 28

Many excellent examples of gaseous nebulas are on display in the skies of August. The brightest are M16 the Eagle Nebula, M17 the Swan Nebula, M20 the Trifid Nebula and the very bright M8, Lagoon Nebula. All are visible in binoculars from dark locations with good seeing. Use a small to moderate aperture telescope with the aid of an Oxygen-III eyepiece filter or SkyGlow Broadband Filter to see these nebulas from locations plagued by light pollution.

New Moon
New Moon is August 30th and therefore the best time to observe the more faint objects like galaxies and star clusters. Grab your gear and enjoy!

August Challenge Object
Our challenge this month is a surprisingly easy object to see with a telescope, but not so easy with binoculars. Look for M27, the Dumbbell Nebula in the constellation of Vulpecula, just south of Cygnus. M27 is one of the nearest and brightest planetary nebulas visible from Earth. It's so big that it can be spotted in humble 7 x 50 binoculars, but it does present a challenge! Try to track M27 down this August with your astronomy binoculars; it will be a small dot, slightly larger than the surrounding stars, but definitely visible through 50mm or larger binoculars.