Tour August’s Sky: Planets Aplenty

Download or play Sky & Telescope's astronomy podcast, and you'll get a guided tour of the night sky. In early evening look for Mars and Saturn embedded in Scorpius toward south, and key an eye out for Perseid meteors.

Mars-Saturn-Antares in August

During August, the positions of Mars and Saturn change with respect that of Antares and the stars of Scorpius.
Sky & Telescope diagram

Ask a skywatcher what’s special about August, and the response will likely be the Perseid meteor shower. These “shooting stars” are caused when little bits of grit shed by a comet called Swift-Tuttle slam into our atmosphere. Every August, we plow right through this stream of dusty debris. The shower should reach its peak late on Thursday night, August 11th, and Friday morning, the 12th.

While you’re waiting for the Perseids to show up, look toward south for a trio of stars in the shape of a triangle. Its very bright right corner is anchored by Mars. To its upper left is Saturn, and below that, the dimmest of the three, is the only true star: Antares, the heart of the constellation Scorpius. Mars moves eastward quite a bit this month, and by month’s end the triangle collapses to a line.

For more tips on what to see in the night sky during August, listen to (or download) our monthly astronomy podcast below.

6 thoughts on “Tour August’s Sky: Planets Aplenty

    1. Kelly BeattyKelly Beatty

      thanks for chiming in. the Zenithal Hourly Rate (ZHR) is an idealized value that few observers ever achieve — and this year it’s especially uncertain. typically the Perseids have a ZHR near 90, but the bright Moon will cause fewer to be seen, while conversely predictions for an enhancement might yield a ZHR near 150. even then there’s disagreement: one dynamicist says that’ll come at 12:40 UT on the 12th, while another predicts 4:56 UT.

  1. Robert VictorRobert Victor

    From your “Tour August’s Sky”: “Its very bright right corner is anchored by Mars. To its upper right is Saturn, …” Change to: Its very bright right corner is anchored by Mars. To its upper left is Saturn,

  2. puck5862

    Thanks Kelly. Really great podcast. I’m new to the sport. Do you have any ideas on where to find some dark sky near my home? Live in a suburb of Chicago. Heavy light pollution.

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