Look up! The month of August ends with the waxing Moon meeting giant planets Jupiter and Saturn in the night sky. The Jupiter conjunction on Friday, August 27, can’t be missed! See Bob Berman’s Sky Watch for August for more information.
Sky Watch for August 2020
by Bob Berman, as featured in The 2020 Old Farmer’s Almanac.
Jupiter and Saturn continue to be visible all night long, just as they were in July. The two bright planets stand one-third of the way up the southern sky at midnight, and hover near each other for most of August. The viewing may be even better this month, because Jupiter and Saturn are higher up in the sky, well above any buildings or trees, and they can be seen earlier in the evening so need to stay up too late if you’re not a night owl.
Mars also rises in the evening between 10 and 11 P.M. in early August. The red planet shines in Pisces through dawn. The good news is that our neighboring planet has grown brighter this month, now shining as bright as a 1st-magnitude star (one of the sky’s brightest stars).
Meanwhile, before dawn, Venus dazzles extremely bright in Gemini—and not too low. Mercury shines much lower but at a very bright and easy magnitude –1 in the month’s first week.
Image: Jupiter and Saturn are the giants of the summer night sky; if you have a telescope, it’s a great time to look for Saturn’s bright rings and Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and moons! Credit: NASA.
Perseid Meteor Showers
The Perseid meteor shower peaks August 12 and 13. This is the most watched meteor shower of the year, and the shooting stars are best seen before midnight (exceptionally early)—before the Moon rises to create unwanted brightness. See your local moonrise times.
Make some plans to get outside to catch a shooting star! See our 2020 Perseid Meteor Shower Guide.
Use the Moon as a Guide!
- On the 1st, look for the Moon first! You’ll find the Moon dangles just below Jupiter, with Saturn to the left. They’ll stay near each other for several days.
- On August 8, the Moon appears practically touching Mars, and the two will be near each other for several days. Look towards the East late in the evening. Or, look towards the South in the morning’s pre-dawn sky (when you’ll also see Venus in the eastern sky).
- These next several evenings – August 7, 8 and 9, 2020 – look over your eastern horizon before going to bed, and you just might catch the waning gibbous moon and the red planet Mars. After this brilliant twosome rises, the moon and Mars will travel westward across the nighttime sky, until these two worlds reach their high point for the night at or near morning dawn.
- The crescent Moon hangs just above Venus on the 15th before sunup in the eastern skies. (Remember Venus is a “morning star” now.) Venus is easily the brightest planet in the hours before sunrise. It’s worth an early wake-up call!
Image: The crescent Moon and Venus seen in 2018. Credit: Bill Dunford/NASA.
The Moon, Jupiter, and Saturn
- At the end of the month, use the Moon to locate Jupiter and Saturn. On August 28, the Moon appears right below Jupiter, a worthy conjunction. Jupiter is very bright, second to the Moon in the night sky. You can’t miss it! On August 29, the Moon hangs below Saturn. The Ringed Planet is not as bright as Jupiter but you can see easily with the unaided eye. Saturn is twice as bright as the 1st-magnitude star Antares.
The Summer Triangle still shines bright and high in the evening sky! Just look to the East and up! See our free star chart and have fun spotting the three bright stars of the Summer triangle!
Image: Summer Triangle. Credit: NASA.