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Sunday, 19 August 2018  •  Sunday, 8 Hazel Moon 2018


Watching the night sky in Hazel Moon 2018

12 August - 9 September 2018

Map of night sky at full moon: 26 August, 11:56 UTC
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Hazel Moon 2018

The evening sky is full of bright planets. After sunset, you can see Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars.

Venus is the bright evening star in the west, and on 17 August reaches 45.9° east of the sun. As seen from the southern hemisphere, Venus is very prominent, high up in the north-west, but from northern lands, Venus is quite low in the west. It’s largely to do with our different perspectives on the plane of the solar system east of the sun at this time of year.

As seen from the northern hemisphere, the new crescent moon is to the right of Venus on 13 August, and is above it on the 14th.

Further out from the sun is Jupiter. Over the next few weeks, the two bright planets swing closer together, but do not pass in the sky, as Venus eventually makes it first into the sunset. On the evening of 17 August, the moon is near Jupiter. Between Venus and Jupiter, fairly low in the SW as seen from the northern hemisphere, is Spica, the bright star of Virgo. On 1 September, Venus passes just over a degree south of Spica. By this date, Venus is very bright, as it comes closer to Earth, but it is low down in the south-west, as seen from the north of our planet.

Saturn is much further round towards the east in the early evening, in the constellation Sagittarius. On the evenings of 20 and 21 August, the moon is either side of the ringed planet as seen from Europe and Africa. As seen from East Asia and Australasia, the moon is very close to the north of Saturn on the evening of the 21st.

Mars moves away gradually from its close encounter with Earth, and dims somewhat. On 9 September, Mars is once more less bright than Jupiter. Mars continues to move westwards through the southern part of Capricornus, but Earth has moved away so much that Mars’ natural movement eastwards is slowly resumed on 27 August. The moon is close to Mars on the evening of 23 August. Mars sets during the early hours, and by the end of the month has firmly become an evening sky planet.

On 26 August, Mercury comes to 18.3° west of the sun in the eastern morning sky. It is not a great view from any part of Earth, but the planet may be seen in the dawn for a few days around that date, especially in the northern hemisphere.

The ice giant planet Neptune comes to opposition and closest to Earth on 7 September, 4328 million kilometres or 4.0 light hours way. It is too faint to see with the naked eye, but look for it through binoculars or telescope in the constellation Aquarius, between the stars Lambda and Phi Aquarii.

Look out for the Perseid meteors on the night 12/13 August, especially after midnight.



The month ahead: Vine Moon 2018

10 September - 8 October 2018

Map of night sky at full moon: 25 September, 02:53 UTC
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Vine Moon 2018

The evening sky continues to be full of bright planets, but Venus gradually sinks into the sunset.

At the start of the month, Venus is the very bright evening star, high up in the west as seen from the southern hemisphere, and very low down in the south-west as seen from northern lands. The less bright Jupiter is nearby, a little above Venus. On 12 September, the new crescent moon is with Jupiter and Venus after the sunset. A lovely sight. As seen from the northern hemisphere, Venus is more or less below the moon. On 13 September, the moon is nearer Jupiter. As the month progresses, Venus sinks lower and lower, and from the middle of the month becomes hard to see from the northern hemisphere, though it is bright enough that you might be able to see it before sunset, low down in the south-west, well to the left of the sun.

Saturn is in the evening sky in the constellation Sagittarius. As seen from the northern hemisphere, it is fairly low down in the south soon after sunset. On the evening of 17 September, the moon is close to the north of the ringed planet, especially as seen from Europe, Africa and western Asia. The closest pass is around 17:25 (16:25 UTC), before the sun sets in Western Europe.

After its close encounter with Earth in July, Mars still shines brightly in the evening sky, low down as seen from the northern hemisphere and setting around midnight. On the evenings of 19 and 20 September, the moon is near Mars, though well to its north.

Mercury is out of view, passing the far side of the sun on 21 September.



William Morris
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