GTA_Skies for August 2018 by Ian Shelton

The Perseids meteor shower is always interesting and became visible in 2018  by the end of the first week of August with just a few meteors seen each hour.  But the activity has steadily increased and will peak on August 12, producing  about one meteor per minute if you are observing from a dark location on a clear night. So plan to be outside on the night of Saturday August 11th, or Sunday August 12th if you can, especially if you can do your viewing in the  early morning hours from 1 am till dawn begins to interfere at 4:30 EDT. That's when the shower will likely be at its best (weather permitting).


You don't need any special equipment to view the meteors, but I strongly  recommend using a full bodylength reclining chair so you can comfortably be  looking almost straight up at the sky for long periods of  time. You should  also have some snacks, a blanket and some mosquito repellant with you. Give  yourself  at least fifteen minutes to let your eyes get used to the dark so  you can see the most meteors.  And try to avoid using your cell phone or any  other sources of light, as even a few seconds looking at  your phone's display  can undo the fifteen minutes it took to get used to the dark. The meteors can  and will appear everywhere in the sky, though they will seem to be coming from  the direction of the  constellation Perseus (hence, their name). The Perseids  will remain active for a few days after its peak, but with  progressively fewer  meteors to see each night. 


In the early morning hours around August 12, the Milky Way can be seen in all  of its glory passing directly overhead and spanning the whole sky. Use a pair of binoculars to explore the many colourful stars and  star clusters embedded in  the glow from our host galaxy's hundreds of billions of stars! And this summer, you have four bright planets to grace the evening sky: Venus low in the west, Jupiter dominating the Southwest, Saturn appearing as the bright star above the "teapot" of Sagittarius, and Mars blazing away in the Southeast. Even a very modest telescope should show you the four bright moons lined up on either side of Jupiter; and it should be able to show you Saturn's rings, though it takes something like a 100mm (4-inch) telescope to begin to see real detail in the rings and on the ball of the planet. The Moon will reappear in the West on August 12th and work its war eastward past the planets over the next week. And for a real challenge, the dwarf planet (and still an asteroid) Vesta is not far from Saturn. But you'll need some planetarium software like Stellarium to help you find it.

Clear skies everyone!

Ian Shelton, DDOD Chair