A U G U S T 2 0 0 2 S K Y W A T C H
by Maya del Mar
One of the major sky events of every August is the Perseid meteor shower, which peaks around August 12, this year at 6 p.m. EDT on August 12. This is perfect for the eastern hemisphere, but on the other hand the west gets two chances to see a pretty good shower, once before dawn on Monday morning, August 12, and again into late evening and overnight into Tuesday, August 13.
The Perseid meteor shower occurs as Earth moves through the debris of Comet Swift-Tuttle, which last visited the inner solar system in 1992.
The time to begin watching is after midnight, when Perseus begins to rise in the East. By sunrise Perseus is above us, and just before dawn we can see the meteors' radiant streaming towards us from on high. During these early morning hours we may see 10-50 streaks per hour crossing the sky. Viewing will be particularly good this year because there will be no moonlight brightening the sky.
While were out meteor-watching, we may also see Saturn rise in the early morning hours. By months end, it rises within an hour of midnight. Jupiter rises three hours after Saturn, and by late August we can see it in the dark morning skies.
Brilliant Venus is still the jewel of the evening sky. Shortly after sunset on August 11, catch the lovely sight of the delicate new crescent moon near Venus. Venus is approaching the bright bluish star, Spica, in Virgo, and by months end they lie very close together.
If you think the moon appears smaller at some times than others, youre right. The moons distance from earth varies. Apogee (farthest from earth) and perigee (closest to earth) are most noticeable when they occur with the full moon. This year apogee coincides with the full moons of August and September. See if you can notice a smaller full moon this month.