Perseid Meteor Shower Highlights the August Night Skies

Posted: July 31, 2021 1:24 pm

Warm August Temperatures Deliver Ideal Conditions to Stargaze

Summer will be over before you know it, meaning now is a good chance to get out and enjoy the warm nights and clear skies. One of the best ways to take advantage of the last nights of the season is to head out for some stargazing. The good news is that August features a number of significant opportunities to catch something exciting in the night skies, including the biggest meteor shower of the calendar year.

Here is what is on tap for the August night skies.

Saturn and Jupiter Oppositions – August 2 and August 19

As the two biggest planets in the solar system, it is quite a treat when both Saturn and Jupiter appear alongside each other during what astronomers refer to as an opposition. Each planet will reach its peak brightness on different days when they move closest to the Earth.

While both planets have been getting brighter and brighter over the last few months, the peak of this illumination will come on August 2 for Saturn and on August 19 for Jupiter. The word opposition is used to describe when the planet is closest to the Earth yet the most distant from the sun.

Just as the two planets have been getting brighter each night, they will start to decrease in intensity after their opposition date. However, each planet will remain bright enough to easily spot in the clear sky for the remainder of August. If you do not luck out with clear skies, just try back the next time that the clouds part.


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The dynamic duo will appear in the east around sunset and begin to move across the southern sky before setting in the west as the sun comes up each morning.

Perseid Meteor Shower – August 11

The biggest astronomical event of the year is set to take place on August 11 when the annual Perseid meteor shower lights up the sky. This is traditionally one of the top events of the year in astronomy circles. Not only does the show consistently churn out a large number of meteors each year, but the temperatures are also generally warm enough for people to get out and enjoy the waning days of summer.

Stargazers can expect between 60 and 100 meteors per hour. Last year’s Perseids event happened under an almost full moon, making it more difficult to spot the shooting stars. However, the 2021 event is going to happen when the moon is below the horizon for most of the night. This will make it easier to get a better look at these natural wonders as they streak across the sky. The rate of meteors will peak in the hour or two just prior to sunrise on August 12.

Blue Moon – August 21:

Do not let the name fool you. This special moon will not actually appear blue in the sky. The term blue moon is used to name the second full moon in a calendar month. While every astronomical season generally features three full moons, once every two to three years, the season boasts four full months. The third of the four full moons is then referred to as the blue moon, designating it as a rare occurrence.

Since this particular full moon on August 21 is the third of the four full moons this season, it is known as the blue moon. Although it will never appear totally blue, the celestial object may take on a blueish tint under the right atmospheric conditions. This happens when some of the Earth’s atmosphere is full of smoke particles or dust that give the moon this unique tint.