August offers star enthusiasts a particularly good opportunity to marvel at Saturn. It comes relatively close to the earth. And, of course, the month of shooting stars also offers a pretty celestial spectacle - this year, however, with one restriction.
At the beginning of August, the crescent of the waxing moon is already visible at dusk. You can still observe the appearance of the ash-grey moonlight. The crescent moon reflects the sunlight. But even the part of the moon that is not illuminated by the sun is not absolutely dark, but shimmers pale. It is the reflected earth light. Because around the time of the new moon, the earth appears almost fully illuminated as seen from the moon. For astronauts on the moon, the full earth phase would show up.
From day to day, the crescent moon becomes thicker, until the moon is finally half lit on the 5th. Full Moon occurs at 3:36 am on the 12th. Barely two days earlier, the Moon comes near to Earth, only 359,828 kilometers separating it from us, while remaining 405,418 kilometers distant on the 22nd.
A little north, i.e. above the full moon, Saturn shines, which is exactly opposite the sun on the 14th. Like the full moon, Saturn can be seen throughout the night. Both stars rise in the east when the sun sinks below the horizon in the west, reach their highest position in the south at midnight and set in the west in the morning. Since the Moon and Saturn are opposite the Sun as seen from Earth, one speaks of the opposition position or simply of opposition to the Sun.
Now it is particularly favorable to observe the ringed planet, because it is "only" 1325 million kilometers away from Earth. This corresponds to almost nine times the distance between earth and sun. Light travels this distance in one hour and 14 minutes. Saturn is the second largest planet in our solar system. Its diameter is ten times larger than that of the terrestrial globe. As a result of its rapid rotation, Saturn is severely flattened. A Saturn day lasts only ten and a half hours.
Saturn's magnificent ring system cannot be seen with the naked eye. It was only discovered after the invention of the telescope at the beginning of the 17th century. For those who have never seen Saturn's rings with their own eyes, this is a great opportunity to observe the ring system. You need a telescope with at least 30x magnification. A visit to an observatory is also worthwhile to see Saturn's ring.
Images from space probes show that Saturn's ring is made up of hundreds of individual rings. It consists of billions and billions of ice chunks from the size of a speck of dust to the size of a house, orbiting the sphere of Saturn. Some of the ice particles rain down onto Saturn's surface. In about 100 million years there will be no more rings of Saturn. Saturn is the planet furthest from the sun that can still be seen with the naked eye. The ringed planet has been on its way for almost 30 years to orbit the sun once. People rarely live longer than three Saturn years. Titan, Saturn's largest moon, can be seen with binoculars.
After the full moon phase, our moon changes into the second half of the night. You will look in vain for him in the evening sky. One day after the full moon, the earth's satellite meets the giant planet Jupiter. Jupiter is gradually becoming the planet of the whole night and attracts attention with its brilliance. Before Venus appears in the morning sky, Jupiter is the brightest star in the night sky - apart from the moon, of course.
On the 19th, the waning moon meets our reddish-yellow neighboring planet Mars, which is also represented in the firmament in the second half of the night. Marsh brightness increases sharply in August. At the end of the month, Mars rises a quarter of an hour after 11 p.m. Finally, on the 27th at 10:17 a.m., the new moon phase occurs.
August is widely known as the shooting star month. It owes its reputation to the Perseid Meteor Shower, which is expected to peak between August 9th and 13th. Bright meteors, so-called bolides or fireballs are not uncommon. The peak of shooting star activity is predicted on the night of the 12th to 13th, with up to a hundred shooting stars expected. This year, however, bright moonlight disturbs the observations.
The best viewing time is from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m. The meteors of the Perseid stream are fast moving objects. They penetrate the earth's atmosphere at around 60 kilometers per second, which corresponds to 216,000 kilometers per hour. The Perseids are caused by a cloud of debris from Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, which encounters Earth every year as it orbits the Sun.
The shimmering ribbon of the summer Milky Way stretches high across the firmament. To see it you need a dark night sky. The delicately glowing band of the Milky Way, made up of thousands upon thousands of glittering stars, is a natural phenomenon that one rarely sees in our time.
The Summer Triangle is now high in the south for the evening observation hour. Vega is almost at the zenith in the lyre. Next to the lyre, the swan spreads its wings. It is marked by a large star cross, known as the Northern Cross. Its main star is called Deneb. The third star of the Summer Triangle is Atair in the Eagle, 16 light-years from our sun. A little to the east of the swan is the small but recognizable image of the dolphin. Pegasus square is slowly rising in the eastern sky. Pegasus is the guiding star of the autumn sky. In the northeast, Cassiopeia, the celestial W, is slowly gaining height.
The sun moves along the descending branch of its annual path. On the morning of the 11th she leaves the constellation of Cancer and moves into Leo. On the same day she enters the zodiac sign Virgo early in the morning. The sun's noon altitude will decrease by a little more than nine degrees, and the day length will shrink by one hour and 51 minutes in 50 degrees north.