When it comes to watching the planets, July was probably the best month of the year because of the planet parade. All the planets were visible in the night sky. Apart from that, the sky was decorated with a cosmic visitor, comet NEOWISE. But that’s the past. Let’s get over it and see what August has in its store for us. This article explains how to locate the planets in the night sky this month. To learn about all the major astronomy events in August 2020, please watch the video below.
Spotting The Planets In August 2020
The smallest planet of our solar system is visible in the morning sky. It reached its greatest altitude on 26 July. On 17 August, Mercury will be at its superior solar conjunction which means it will pass very close to the Sun in the sky as its orbit will carry it around the far side of the solar system from the Earth. This marks the end of Mercury’s apparition in the morning sky and its transition to become an evening object over the next few weeks.
If you want to observe the planet, make sure you do that in the first few days of August as its altitude at sunrise will constantly decrease. Never attempt to point a pair of binoculars or a telescope at an object close to the Sun. Doing so may result in immediate and permanent blindness.
Venus is emerging into the morning sky as it approaches its greatest elongation west. Venus shines brightly as the ‘morning star’ at a magnitude of -4.5, making it the brightest object in the night sky after the Moon. It rises around 02:30 hrs and is high up in the sky at dawn.
On August 13, Venus will be at dichotomy. Since Venus lies within the Earth’s orbit, it shows phases as shown above. At times, it is completely unilluminated, when it comes between the Earth and the Sun, and at times it is fully illuminated when it goes to the far end. When it reaches its greatest eastern or western elongation, 50% of its surface is illuminated – the phase known as its dichotomy. On August 13, Venus will be at the greatest eastern elongation. It will reach higher in the sky as the month advances.
Mars is approaching its opposition and perigee in October. Hence, the view will gradually become better as the month progresses. Mars becomes accessible a few minutes before midnight, in the constellation of Pisces, at a magnitude of -1.1
Mars is going to be the reason behind one of the most exciting astronomy events in August this year. On August 9, Mars will be eclipsed by the Moon – an event known as occultation. This occultation will be visible from the parts of South America alone. From the rest of the world, the Moon will appear to pass very close to Mars in Pisces. For detailed information, please watch our Astronomy calendar for August 2020.
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Having recently made its closest approach to our planet, Jupiter dominates the night sky along with Saturn. Jupiter was at opposition on July 14 and hence it is still shining brightly in the constellation of Sagittarius. Jupiter rises at dusk, reaches its highest point around midnight before getting lost in the twilight. Its magnitude is around -2.72.
While Jupiter made its closest approach on July 14, Saturn did that just 7 days later, on July 21. Saturn shines at a magnitude of 0.14 along with Jupiter. Saturn is fainter than Jupiter. Refer to the above sky chart to locate the ringed planet.
Over the weeks following their opposition, Jupiter and Saturn will reach their highest points in the sky four minutes earlier each night, gradually receding from the pre-dawn morning sky while remaining visible in the evening sky for a few months.
Uranus is currently emerging from behind the Sun. It is visible in the dawn sky rising a few minutes before midnight in the constellation of Aries. Since its magnitude is 5.80, you’ll need a telescope to watch this planet. Uranus will be at opposition on 31 October.
Neptune is visible in the morning sky, rising about an hour before midnight, in the constellation of Aquarius. It reaches its highest point in the sky around 03:00 hrs. At a magnitude of 7.84, it isn’t visible with the naked eye.
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