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Sky Report -August 2011

Sights seen all through August – On August evenings, the Summer Triangle appears high in the East with the very bright star Vega, nearly overhead in the evening hours. In the early evening hours, another triangle is in view in the West;  on  top is the very bright golden star Arcturus with both the bright star Spica and planet Saturn close to the western horizon. You can distinguish the star Spica from Saturn by Saturn’s steady light. Low in the South is the star group Sagittarius, whose brighter stars form an old fashioned tea kettle. The kettle’s pouring spot is on the right and the handle is on the left. To the right of Sagittarius is the brighter star group Scorpion, whose brighter stars form a letter ‘J’ leaning to the right. Well to the left of Sagittarius is Capricorn, a  triangular group of modest stars. In the North, the Big Dipper appears about half way up in the North Northwest. The two lowest stars of the Dipper make a line that extends rightward to the North Star. The Big Dipper’s handle can be extended outward to the bright star Arcturus. Low in the North Northeast is Cassiopeia, whose 5 brighter stars form a tilted ‘W’ as if climbing up a hill in the Northeast. Low in the East is the Great Square of Pegasus, appearing as a baseball diamond, with its lowest star marking home plate, a star on the right for 1st base, the top star for 2nd base and a star on the left  for 3rd base.

Early August Sights – On July 30th, the moon swung from the morning to the evening side of the sun. Weather permitting, a slender crescent moon should be visible very low in the 8:45 p.m. western twilight on August 1st. On August 3rd and 4th, the crescent moon should be near planet Saturn in the western dusk . On August 5th and 6th, the evening moon will appear half full, offering the best views of its craters and mountain ranges through binoculars or telescopes. On August 7th, the moon will appear close to the bright star Antares of the Scorpion.

Mid August Sights – The evening moon grows to full on August 13th, appearing in western Aquarius. This full moon is a preview of September’s Harvest Moon, offering extra evening moonlight for the next four nights. This full moon will spoil the Perseid meteor shower, peaking during the early morning hours of August 13th. On August 19th, the moon will appear above the very bright planet Jupiter in the late evening hours.  

Late August Sights – On the morning of August 21st, the moon appears half full in the southern dawn. In the predawn hours, the crescent moon will appear to the right of the planet Mars in the East on August 25th. On August 27th, a slender crescent moon will appear above and to the right of the planet Mercury in the 6 a.m. eastern sky. In  the last hour of August 28th, the moon will swing from the morning to the evening side of the sun. On August 31st and weather permitting, a slender crescent moon may be seen low in the 8:30 pm twilight.

Our Sunday public planetarium programs at Frostburg State will resume in September. But each month, the Cumberland Astronomy Club meets on the third Friday at 7:30 pm. at the LaVale Public Library. All interested are invited to attend. The Club also holds monthly public telescope sessions at Frostburg’s recreational complex that are announced in the Cumberland Times-News.   

By Dr. Bob Doyle

To contact Dr. Doyle, his mailing address is Planetarium, Frostburg State University, Frostburg, MD 21532 or by email at rdoyle@frostburg.edu.









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