October 3, 2022

Every Monday I pick the Northern Hemisphere (mid-northern latitudes) sky points for the week ahead, but be sure to

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What to watch for in the night sky this week: August 8-14, 2022

This week would normally be to go somewhere as dark as possible to enjoy the most famous meteor shower of the year. However, the Moon has other ideas in 2022. The full “Sturgeon Moon” will rise almost exactly as the Perseid meteor shower peaks, meaning its 100-plus shooting stars are likely to be nearly invisible to most astrologers.

However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to see some of the brightest meteors after watching the “Sturgeon Moon” appear on the eastern horizon at dusk. By way of apology, our solar system is handing over Saturn as the biggest, brightest and best as the ringed planet goes into opposition later this week.

Friday, August 12, 2022: A Full ‘Sturgeon Moon’

Today our satellite fills in, giving us a chance to see a beautiful orange moon rise above the eastern horizon near sunset. The August full moon has the traditional name “Sturgeon Moon” in North America because it is the time of year when fish are caught in the Great Lakes.

However, this is an extremely geographically narrow name for a global event, and I see no reason for most of North America, let alone the rest of the world, to call it that. Other much better names for August’s full moon include “Barley Moon,” “Fruit Moon,” “Grain Moon,” “Corn Moon,” and “Lightning Moon.”

Saturday, August 13, 2022: Perseid meteor shower

Typically a highlight of the annual stargazing calendar, the bright moonlight will destroy this year’s Perseid meteor shower, with the 100 or so “shooting stars” per hour very difficult to see thanks to a full moon that has just passed – if and You’ll be stargazing just before midnight tonight and into the early hours of tomorrow, when you might see some particularly bright bolides. The Perseid meteor shower is caused by dust and debris left in the inner Solar System by comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle.

Sunday August 14, 2022: Moon and Neptune, Saturn in opposition

Tonight a 98% illuminated moon will rise later in the evening near Neptune. However, you’ll have your work cut out for you to find the eighth planet without a pair of binoculars. Meanwhile, if you look in the eastern sky before the Moon rises, you’ll see the planet Saturn shining relatively brightly. In fact, the ringed planet is at its brightest and largest of the year tonight. That’s because our planet is between Earth and Saturn, an annual occurrence that astronomers call opposition. Saturn will rise in the east at dusk and set in the west.

Topic of the week: Saturn in opposition

Saturn’s opposition occurs when the Earth passes between it and the Sun on its own, faster, path around the Sun. As a consequence of this geometry, Saturn’s disk will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. So Saturn will look its biggest and brightest and best for all of 2022. Saturn’s position will change throughout the night. it will move higher in the sky, although from the mid-latitudes of the northern hemisphere it will never get very high, and will remain relatively low in the southern night sky.

You will need any small telescope to see its rings. This year, Saturn’s northern hemisphere tilts toward Earth in 2022, so you’ll get a relatively closed view of its rings. However, seeing Saturn’s rings through a telescope is still perhaps the most impressive sight of all for anyone new to stargazing, planet spotting, and astronomy. They are especially bright in the few days around the opposition, so it’s worth the effort.

I wish you clear skies and open eyes.

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