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Village Sky At Night with Brian Watkiss

Shooting stars and diamonds in the sky

Posted on July 31 2016 at 1:58:26 0 comments

Stars

Amateur astronomer Brian Watkiss peers into the Village night sky.

School holidays again and it’s a great time for gazing into the evening sky. OK, so it doesn’t get dark till gone ten o’clock but that doesn’t matter, does it?

As soon as the Sun has disappeared over the horizon, look over into the golden glow and you should be able to spot Venus. It will be very low but being so bright, it should be visible and, for the first few days of the month you might be able to find Mercury close by, a little to the left.

Because it is so very tiny, it could be tricky without, at least, binoculars – but please make sure the Sun has gone before you get them out. It will certainly be beneficial to seek out a good view of the western horizon even if you have to climb a hill to find it.

These two planets will have gone by the time darkness arrives but don’t worry, all the other bright planets are still around. Following Venus down towards the sunset is the largest of all the planets, Jupiter.

Look out for it on the 5th and 6th when a very thin crescent Moon is nearby. If you keep watching on a daily basis you will see it creep closer and closer to Venus, finally closing in on the 27th before being lost in the twilight.

Jupiter has been dominating the night sky for many months now but as the Earth moves round to the opposite side of the Sun, it will be gone from our night skies, becoming an early morning object in October.

Moving further left along the ecliptic, we find the next brightest planet, Mars. This planet is easy to identify because apart from its brightness it has a distinctive orange hue. In fact, it is just about the most colourful object in the sky.

Amazing to think that it looks that way because it has gone rusty!

As the days go by, Mars sweeps slowly along the tail of Scorpius, the scorpion (which sounds a pretty dangerous sort of thing to do), arriving in conjunction with the brightest star in the constellation, Antares, on the 24th.

The last of our plethora of planets is close by all month too. Look just to the left of Mars and there is Saturn, quite obvious and a very different colour to the red planet. It’s interesting to see how bright it is considering it is nearly ten times further away from us than the Sun.

On the 11th of the month, the Moon makes a close approach and, in fact, forms a diamond shape with Saturn, Mars and Antares. These last three also line themselves up nicely on the 23rd.

Of course, August also means meteor watching with the best shower of all, the Perseids. These peak overnight on the 11th so, wherever you are in the world, get a chair and some company and sit out and count shooting stars.                                             


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