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Monthly Stargazing Targets  Getting Started in Astronomy

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August 2017 (Notes by DMAS member Dave Lynch) 


The Planets 

This is the month we have all been waiting for. Even though we have some great views of some planets this month it is the Total Eclipse of the Sun (August 21) we have all been waiting for. As for the planets, during totality as many as three planets will be visible in the darkened sky.. 

MERCURY is still too close to the sun this month but during totality, or even when the sun is only about 90% covered, this tiny planet may be spotted below and slightly to the lower left of the eclipsed disk of the sun.

VENUS is another planet that may be seen during totality. It should be the first non-solar object to be seen as it will be shining brightly. Look for it low in the west as the sun becomes eclipsed.

EARTH is going through another eclipse and as many as two-hundred million people on this planet will have the opportunity to see one of nature's greatest spectacles. No other planet in the solar system can brag about this.

MARS joins other planets that can be seen during totality. Too low around here to be seen at dark, when the sun is totally eclipsed look for Mars to the upper right of the sun's disk and below the twins of Castor and Pollux.

JUPITER is not to be outdone by the other planets. Not only can it be seen at night, it can also be seen during totality. Very low in the west look for Jupiter just above Spica. Both should be shining brightly.

SATURN reaches its highest point in the southern sky this month. Always a great sight to look at, the rings have almost reached their maximum openness which will occur in October. In August Saturn has a close encounter with Antares.

URANUS is traveling through Pisces this month. Still a dim object, it will clear the horizon around midnight and won't reach high enough in the sky until just before sunrise. Next month should offer a better view of this far away planet.

NEPTUNE is an earlier riser this month coming up in Aquarius just before sunset. Allow some time for darkness to arrive and you should be able to see this planet well before ten PM.



 First Quarter -> August 29
Full Moon -> July 03

Last Quarter -> July 15 
New Moon -> July 21


TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE IN AUGUST: Total Solar Eclipse - 2017

On August 21st the Sun will be totally eclipsed by the Moon. This is in my opinion the greatest sight in nature you will ever see. It can also be one of the most dangerous sights you will ever see as well. Unless you or those around you have good solar viewing protection, any attempt to look at the eclipsing Sun, even at 95% which will be seen around Central Iowa, can be very harmful to your eyesight. We have plenty of solar viewing cards at the observatory and all you have to do is ask for them. No one, especially those of us who enjoy looking at the night sky, wants to end up with damage to our eyes. It is completely safe to look at the "Totally Eclipsed" Sun without any solar protection but under no circumstances should anyone even take a peek at the Sun before that without some form of protection. Also, as a word of warning, I would not like to be driving on our roads at this time. I fully expect August 21st to be the worst day in our history for traffic accidents due to people being distracted by the eclipse. Be extra careful on that day. 

Deep Space Objects 

Click the link above for Monthly Stargazing Targets to get details about other things that can be seen this month.


 Meteor Showers

web fireball 9x12Meteor showers come each year at the same time. Click here to see a list and descriptions.






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