Sky Watch: August 2017

Universe at Night

Welcome to the August 2017 Sky Watch! The month is packed with sky shows, from the total solar eclipse to meteor showers to pretty Moon pairings at the end of the month.

Sky Watch August 2017

by Bob Berman, as featured in The 2017 Old Farmer’s Almanac
(Note: Times listed below are ET.)

What’s up in August? Here are the highlights:

  • On August 2, the Moon hovers above Saturn.
  • The 12th brings the Perseid meteors, but a bright Moon will interfere with good viewing. See our guide to the 2017 Perseid Meteor Shower.
  • On the 19th, the Moon is just below Venus, which adequately maintains its elevation in the morning sky, in Gemini.
  • The first total solar eclipse in the United States in 38 years unfolds August 21. Hopefully, many will travel to be within the narrow ribbon of totality, rather than view the mere partial eclipse seen throughout the continent. (Warning: Eye protection required, such as welder’s goggles with shade #12 or #14.) We’ve got some great information about the eclipse so you can get the most out of this rare event. See my 2017 Total Solar Eclipse Guide and Map.
  • The Moon is to the right of ever-lower Jupiter on the 24th and above Jupiter on the 25th. Look just after sunset for the beautiful crescent Moon in the southwest skies. 
  • On the 30th, the Moon pairs up again with a planet, sitting to the upper left of Saturn in the southern evening sky. 



The 2017 Old Farmer's Almanac

Reader Comments

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Moon In Ascending Node During Last Solar Eclipse

Why did the last solar eclipse "start" at the upper right quadrant of the sun and not the lower right quadrant since the moon was in ascending node? One would logically think that since the moon was crossing the ecliptic from south to north that it would have crossed the sun from bottom to top and not top to bottom. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks and keep up the great work! :)

Eclipse Question

Great letter, which shows a wonderful depth of astronomy knowledge.

But the direction in which the Moon strikes the Sun at the start of the eclipse, and the angle at which it crosses it, is primarily dictated by two things that are separate from whether the node is ascending or descending.

First, remember that “ascending” is upward depending on where the Sun is at the time of the eclipse. The top, bottom, or sides of the Sun vary with the time of day, and your location. Secondly, the moon’s motion is still a train traveling through the zodiac, which moves downward (southward) as well as eastward as it traverses Leo, the constellation that hosted this eclipse. (Leo’s alpha star Regulus was next to the eclipsed Sun). So, moving its own width per hour as it encountered and blocked the Sun last Monday, the Moon’s main motion was both right to left (eastward) and also top to bottom (southward) as it chugged along through Leo. That it was also crossing the precise ecliptic line in a south-to-north direction was true, but contributed less to its gross visible motion during the eclipse. That served only to subtract a bit from the vertical or declination component of its motion that day.

Hope this helps.
–Bob Berman

Thank you!

Loved this article, cannot wait to read more from you!

Photographing the night skies...Milky Way and stars

Hi, I will be traveling from California to Alberta next week. I will spend the nights in Kamloops, Golden, Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper. I am a photographer and would love to shoot the Milky Way and do some star trails. Where would you recommend I go in these places at night (that are not too remote..single female traveling alone!). I do require an interesting foreground such as a barn, or interesting trees, buildings, etc. Thanks for any help/advice you can give me!