Top40 News for 08/04/2018

#39 Perseids Primetime, and 10 More Can’t-Miss Sky Events in August

In the pre-dawn hours, look for the last quarter moon to guide you to planet Uranus. The pair will be rising together in the eastern sky around midnight and by dawn will be riding high in the southeast. The cosmic pair will only be 6 degrees apart—a separation equal to the width of your three middle fingers held at arm’s length. Uranus shines at magnitude 5, so it’s at the limit of the naked eye’s visibility, but binoculars will make it easy to spot, even under light-polluted skies. This ice giant has a distinct green hue to it, and even small telescopes will show it off as a tiny disk despite it being a whopping 1.8 billion miles from Earth. 

This morning you’ll have a great opportunity to catch a mainbelt asteroid thanks to its position near the moon. Juno is the eleventh-largest asteroid and is one of the brightest, currently shining at magnitude 9.3. This makes the 160-mile-wide rock visible in binoculars or small telescopes, floating among the stars that comprise the large, faint constellation Cetus, the whale. Juno will appear about 5 degrees away from the Moon. The best way to identify and track this giant space rock is to sketch the same star field over a couple of nights; the star that moves is the asteroid.

Look to the east for the waning crescent moon rising in the predawn hours.It will be paired with the bright orange star Aldebaran. This lead star in Taurus, the bull constellation, will appear only 5 degrees from the moon—equal to the width of the your three fingers held at arm’s length. Look carefully with binoculars between the two objects to catch sight of the Hyades star cluster. At 178 light-years distant, this distinct V-shaped collection of stars is one of the closest clusters to Earth.

Friday night’s new moon will be a good time to track down the great celestial “teapot,” visible in the southern sky. 

Located in the zodiacal constellation Sagittarius, this distinct stellar pattern—complete with handle, lid and spout—marks the heart of the mythical centaur. For even the seasoned stargazer, tracing out the figure of a centaur takes some imagination, but the familiar form of the teapot is rather easy to pick out.

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