Every week, SkyNews publishes a list of key events in the Canadian sky in This Week’s Sky. This series gives you all the latest news in Solar System movements, including where the planets are in our sky and Moon phases. From eclipses to meteor showers, This Week’s Sky keeps you updated on the best in upcoming astronomical highlights.
Monday, August 8 – Black shadows of Europa and Ganymede on Jupiter (9:34 to 11 p.m. ADT)
On Monday night, August 8, telescope-owners viewing from northeastern North America and across to central Europe and Africa can watch the small black shadows of two of Jupiter’s moons cross the planet’s disk at the same time. At 9:34 p.m. Atlantic Daylight Time, which converts to 00:34 UTC on August 9, Europa’s small shadow will join Ganymede’s large shadow already crossing. The two shadows will appear together for 80 minutes until Ganymede’s shadow moves off the planet at 11 p.m. ADT, or 02:00 UTC, leaving Europa’s shadow to complete its transit at 11:44 p.m. ADT or 02:44 UTC.
Thursday, August 11 – Full Green Corn Moon (on Friday at 01:36 UTC)
The August full Moon will occur on Thursday, August 11 at 9:36 p.m. EDT and 6:36 p.m. PDT, which converts to Friday at 01:36 UTC. This full Moon, colloquially called the “Sturgeon Moon,” “Red Moon” “Green Corn Moon,” and “Grain Moon,” always shines among or near the stars of Aquarius or Capricornus. The indigenous Anishinaabe people of the Great Lakes region call this moon Manoominike-giizis, the Wild Rice Moon, or Miine Giizis, the Blueberry Moon. The Cree Nation of central USA and Canada calls the August full Moon Ohpahowipîsim, the Flying Up Moon. The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) of eastern North America call it Seskéha, the Freshness Moon. The Moon becomes fully illuminated when it is opposite the sun in the sky, causing the Moon to rise at sunset and set at sunrise. Since this full Moon will occur less than two days after perigee, this will be the fourth and final supermoon of 2022.
Thursday, August 11 – Full Moon circles Saturn (overnight)
When the recently full Moon rises in the southeastern sky around dusk on Thursday, August 11, it will be positioned a slim palm’s width to the lower right (or 5 degrees to the celestial south) of a triangle of bright stars. The brightest and highest of the trio will be Saturn. The Moon and Saturn will be cosy enough to share the view in binoculars (green circle). The grouping will cross the night sky together. As they do, the diurnal motion of the sky will shift the Moon below Saturn around midnight, and then to Saturn’s left as they prepare to set in the west-southwest toward sunrise.
Friday, August 12 – Perseid Meteor Shower peak (overnight)
The spectacular Perseid Meteor Shower, which runs between July 17 and August 26 every year, will peak after midnight in the Americas on Friday night, August 12. That means that the best time for seeing the most Perseids meteors in North America will be the hours before dawn on Saturday morning, when the shower’s radiant in Perseus will be highest in the northeastern sky. This is the most popular shower of the year, delivering as many as 100 meteors per hour at the peak. Derived from debris dropped by Comet Swift-Tuttle, many Perseids are extremely bright and leave persistent trails. This year, a nearly full Moon will shine all night long on the peak date, reducing the number of meteors we will see. Although fewer meteors are seen before and after the peak, skywatchers can also expect to see plenty of meteors on from Thursday to Sunday night. To enjoy meteor showers, find a safe rural location with plenty of open sky and just look up.
Saturday, August 13 – Mars enters evening sky (after midnight)
Towards the middle of August, the red planet Mars will finally join Jupiter and Saturn in the evening sky – giving us three planets to view on summer nights. Observers with an unobstructed eastern horizon should be able to spot Mars peeking above the horizon within a few minutes after midnight local time. Watch for the bright Pleiades star cluster shining nearby. Mars will look its best in backyard telescopes when it is highest in the southeastern sky before dawn, but the planet will rise about two minutes earlier with each passing day. At the same time, it will be gradually brightening and growing larger in telescopes – on its way to a spectacular evening showing at the end of autumn.
Sunday, August 14 – Bright Moon passes Jupiter (all night)
In the eastern sky during evening on Sunday, August 14, the waning gibbous Moon will shine a palm’s width to the right (or 5 degrees to the celestial southwest) of the extremely bright planet Jupiter – just close enough to be viewed together in binoculars (green circle). Through the night, the diurnal rotation of the sky will shift the Moon to below the bright planet. On Monday night, the Moon’s orbital motion will cause it to hop east to Jupiter’s lower left.
Sunday, August 14 – Saturn at opposition (all night)
On Sunday, August 14, Saturn will reach opposition among the stars of eastern Capricornus. Objects at opposition are visible all night long – rising at sunset and setting at sunrise – because Earth is positioned between them and the sun. At opposition, Saturn will be at a distance of 823.3 million miles, 1.325 billion km, or 73.7 light-minutes from Earth, and it will shine at magnitude of 0.28 – its brightest for 2022. While planets at opposition always look their brightest, Saturn’s peak magnitude will be enhanced by the Seeliger effect, backscattered sunlight from its rings. In a telescope (inset) Saturn will show an apparent disk diameter of 18.8 arc-seconds, and its rings will subtend 43.7 arc-seconds. Saturn’s rings will be tilting more edge-on to us every year until the spring of 2025. This year they are closed enough for Saturn’s southern polar region to extend well beyond them. Opposition is also a fine time to view a handful of Saturn’s moons with a backyard telescope in a dark sky.
Chris Vaughan is a science writer, geophysicist, astronomer, planetary scientist and an “outreach RASCal.” He writes Astronomy Skylights, and you can follow him on Twitter at @astrogeoguy. He can also bring his Digital Starlab portable inflatable planetarium to your school or other daytime or evening event. Contact him through AstroGeo.ca to tour the Universe together.