Warm summer nights are numbered across North America with the start of autumn right around the corner, but there will be several notable night sky events for stargazers to enjoy before the arrival of meteorological fall on Sept. 1.
Shortly before the midpoint of August, the dog days of summer will conclude. From July 3 through Aug. 11, Sirius, known as the dog star, appears to rise and set with the sun. Some ancient peoples believed that the extra light from the bright star added to the heat of the day, and while the myth has been debunked, the nickname continues to live on.
Sirius will once again become visible by the end of the month, rising in the eastern sky at the tale end of the night before daybreak just below the constellation Orion.
From a “super blue moon” to an onslaught of shooting stars, here are the top astronomy events to mark on your calendar in August:
One of the best meteor showers of the year will peak during the second weekend of August, presenting the perfect opportunity to spot shooting stars streaking across the sky.
Up to 100 meteors per hour may be seen from dark, cloud-free areas of North America as the annual Perseids peak on the night of Saturday, Aug. 12 into the early morning of Sunday, Aug. 13.
“The Perseids are the most popular meteor shower as they peak on warm August nights as seen from the northern hemisphere,” the American Meteor Society said.
The only other meteor shower that outperforms the Perseids is the Geminids in mid-December, which can boast up to 120 meteors per hour, but often coincides with cold and cloudy winter-like weather.
Late August will offer excellent views of one of the largest planets in the solar system — no telescope required.
On Sunday, Aug. 27, Saturn will reach opposition, a point in its orbit where the planet appears directly opposite of the sun from the perspective of the Earth. This is also around the same time that it is closest to the Earth, meaning that Saturn will glow brightly in the sky all night long.
No special equipment is needed to spot the second-largest planet in the solar system, but most telescopes have enough magnification power to reveal Saturn’s famous rings.
Although opposition takes place on Aug. 27, any night during the second half of August and the first few weeks of September with good weather will feature good views of the planet. Saturn will rise in the eastern sky around sunset and slowly traverse the sky throughout the night before setting in the west around daybreak.
A rare astronomical event will unfold in the night sky at the end of the month, although it may look like many other events throughout the year.
Two full moons will rise in August, the first one appearing on the first night of the month, followed by another on Wednesday, Aug. 30. Both will be supermoons, appearing slightly larger and brighter than a normal full moon, but the latter will outshine the former due to its nickname.
When two full moons occur in the same calendar month, the second is referred to as a blue moon. The most recent blue moon of its kind occurred on Oct. 31, 2020, and another one will not occur until May 31, 2026.
Despite the nickname, the “super blue moon” on Aug. 30 will look like many other full moons throughout the year. Full moons in August are also known as a Sturgeon Moon, a Corn Moon, a Mountain Shadow Moon and a Black Cherry Moon.
Produced in association with AccuWeather