Find your way around the night sky! Below is a free sky map for AUGUST 2015 as well as a printable version, courtesy of astronomer Jeff DeTray.
Sky Map for AUGUST 2015
Each month, Jeff’s Sky Maps provides a sky map which highlights beautiful events in the evening sky—stars, constellations, planets, conjunctions with the Moon, meteor showers, and other amazing celestial objects. Follow more of Jeff’s sky adventures at AstronomyBoy.com.
Click-and-Print Sky Map
Just click here or on the image below to open the printable map—then bring outside!
Sky Map Highlights: August 2015
Saturn, the Moon, and a Comet’s Legacy
If you ask people to name their favorite planet (apart from Earth!), Saturn usually tops the list of responses. It’s easy to see why. Through a telescope or in photos taken through one, the Ringed Planet is like nothing else.
When we view Saturn with unaided eyes, it appears as a bright dot in the sky. It looks very much like a star, so finding Saturn can be tricky. However, on the night of August 22, our friend the Moon will help us determine which of the thousands of lights in the sky is the planet Saturn.
Look to the southwest about 1 hour after sunset and find the first quarter Moon—“first quarter” because the Moon is one-quarter of the way through its monthly orbit around Earth. On this night, the face of the Moon that we can see is exactly half-illuminated. Just to the lower right of the Moon is Saturn, the brightest object in this region of the sky, other than the Moon.
Saturn will remain near this location for many weeks, while the Moon speeds eastward, leaving Saturn behind. Just one night later (August 23), the Moon will be halfway to the Teapot asterism, outlined in blue on this month’s map.
The Perseids Meteor Shower
The Perseids Meteor Shower occurs every August, peaking on the night of August 12–13. This year, the Moon is cooperating; it is near its “new” phase during the Perseids. A new Moon occurs when the illuminated side of the Moon is turned away from Earth, resulting in especially dark skies, perfect for viewing. Because the shower is occurring near the new Moon, this should be the best showing of the Perseids for several years—provided, of course, that the weather also cooperates.
Meteors, or shooting stars, occur when Earth rushes through a stream of dust and debris left behind by a passing comet. When the bits strike Earth’s upper atmosphere, friction with the air causes each particle to heat and burn up. We see the result as a meteor. See more facts about meteor showers.
The Perseids are the legacy of Comet Swift-Tuttle, discovered in 1862 by Lewis Swift and Horace Parnell Tuttle. The comet passes through the inner Solar System, where Earth is located only once every 133 years. Each August, Earth encounters the trail of debris left behind by Swift-Tuttle, and we are treated to one of the best meteor showers of the year.
Watching a meteor shower could not be simpler. Just go outside on the night of August 12 and look up! You can maximize your chances of seeing meteors by finding an open area far from man-made lights
Being comfortable is important. To avoid a stiff neck, bring a chaise lounge or reclining lawn chair. A sleeping bag on the ground works, too. Find a slight incline so that your head will be higher than your feet. Dress warmly; you’ll be surprised how chilly it will get, even in August. When you are sitting or lying outside at night, your body heat radiates directly into the sky. Bring a hat, too. See more Meteor Shower information and viewing tips.
The meteors can appear anywhere in the sky, but you’ll have the best luck by gazing at whatever part of the sky is darkest at your location. The best time to watch is between midnight and dawn. Doing it with family and friends makes the difference between a lonely vigil and an adventure. Have fun!
Sky map produced using Chris Marriott’s Skymap Pro
See our Sky Watch page for more highlights of the monthly sky, courtesy of The Old Farmer’s Almanac.