The month of August features one of each year’s best meteor showers, known as the PERSEIDS, because its meteors appear to come out of the sky region where we find the constellation Perseus. The Perseids peak on August 13th. The best time to look is between 3 am and 5 am; the direction to look is the east-northeast about 60 degrees up from the horizon (the very top of the sky is 90 degrees). Fifty to sixty meteors per can be expected on that morning, while a slim crescent Moon will be seen low to the horizon and below Perseus. The planet Jupiter will also be seen nearby ( the brightest object after the Moon.
Meteor showers occur as Earth moves along in its orbit and passes through debris that has been left behind by periodic comets that passed through the inner solar system in the past.
Meanwhile, Saturn reaches opposition on August 27th. This means it appears opposite the Sun in the sky; that is, Saturn rises in the eastern sky as the Sun sets in the western sky. This also means that Saturn and the Earth are the closest to each other that they have been in 13 months. And this means that Saturn is at its brightest and biggest for sky-watchers to en enjoy. This is especially true for those of us with telescopes because Saturn’s beautiful rings, colored cloud bands, and sparkling Moons may more easily seen; and seen with greater detail.
The night of August 2/3 Saturn will be seen just above a nearly Full Moon. Later in the month on the 30th, a second Full Moon for August this year will again be seen with Saturn just above it.
Jupiter, mentioned earlier, is best seen all month in the few hours just before dawn in the eastern sky. It is far brighter than Saturn, and being closer reveals all kinds of neat sights for telescope sky-watchers. Its cloud bands (top of its atmosphere) are even more deeply colored than Saturn’s, and its 4 large Moons appear as bright jewels on either side of the planet; their positions changing from night to night as they orbit the giant planet. Look for Jupiter close to a last quarter Moon two hours before sunrise in the eastern sky on August 8th.
Venus begins rising into the morning eastern sky this month at the end of August. It outshines Jupiter which will make it easier to spot since it will still be quite low to the horizon until gaining altitude in September and October.