2017-08-01 / Stargazing

Partial eclipse to attract star gazers’ attention in August

For August 2017, the waxing gibbous moon passes three degrees north of Saturn in the southeastern twilight on Aug. 3. The full moon, the Green Corn Moon, is only Aug. 7. The Perseid meteor shower peaks on the morning of Aug. 13, with the last quarter moon rising about midnight and interfering somewhat with the fainter meteors.

Expect about a meteor a minute coming out of the northeast after midnight. The waning crescent moon passes two degrees south of Venus in the dawn on Aug. 19.

This new moon is a very special one, for the moon sits on the ecliptic, directly in front of the sun for observers in North America. Those on the center line from Salem, Ore., through Charleston, S.C., will witness about two minutes of totality.

This is the first “coast to coast” total solar eclipse since 1879, and the first totality in the United States since 1979. Those planning to observe from West Florida will see first contact, the beginning of the partial eclipse, about 12:05 p.m. locally Aug. 21.


This photo by Merry Edenton-Wooten from the annular eclipse of May 30, 1984, shows how the sun should appear, with most of it covered by the moon here, but no sunspots can be guaranteed. The sun is near solar minimum now, and is often spotless for days at a time This photo by Merry Edenton-Wooten from the annular eclipse of May 30, 1984, shows how the sun should appear, with most of it covered by the moon here, but no sunspots can be guaranteed. The sun is near solar minimum now, and is often spotless for days at a time Escambia Amateur Astronomers members will set up outside the Pensacola State College Planetarium, clear skies permitting, for public viewing and photographing the partial eclipse. Maximum coverage will be 82 percent at 1:37 p.m., and the partial eclipse will end with the moon leaving the sun’s eastern limb at 3:03 p.m.

The next total solar eclipse for America will be in 2024 and will take place well west of us, in Texas up through the northeast and into Canada.

The waxing crescent moon passes three degrees north of Jupiter in the evening sky on Aug. 25, and the moon is first quarter on Aug. 29.

Mercury is low in the western evening sky as August begins. Venus dominates the dawn sky. Mars lies behind the sun. Jupiter is visible in southwestern twilight but will be getting lost in the sun’s glare by September.

Saturn is easily seen in the southeast in Sagittarius. Enjoy the rings, which are now 27 degrees open and tilted toward earth and sun The most beautiful planet falls closer to the western horizon each evening, to be lost in the sun’s glare in October.

The Big Dipper rides high in the northwest at sunset, but falls lower each evening. Good scouts know to take its leading pointers north to Polaris, the famed Pole Star. For us, it sits 30 degrees (our latitude) high in the north, while the rotating earth beneath makes all the other celestial bodies spin around it from east to west.

Taking the arc in the Dipper’s handle, we “arc” southeast to bright orange Arcturus, the brightest star of spring. Cooler than our yellow sun, and much poorer in heavy elements, its strange motion reveals it to be an invading star from another smaller galaxy, now colliding with the Milky Way in Sagittarius in the summer sky, some believe.

Download the August Evening Sky Map at skymaps.com for a list of the best objects to view with the naked eye, binoculars & scopes.

PUBLIC GAZES

by the Escambia Amateur Astronomers begin at sunset and run ‘til 10 pm

Battery Worth on Ft. Pickens* Friday* August 18th

*the dark sky sessions will allow observers to enjoy the beauty of the night sky, the Milky Way, and many more galaxies beyond our own

Pensacola Beach Gulfside Pavilion Friday* August 4th & Saturday* August 5th

*these sidewalk astronomy sessions will feature observing the first quarter moon overhead, Be sure to bring you smartphone for great shots of the moon, Jupiter and Saturn.

Big Lagoon State Park* Saturday* August 12th

(near the observation tower)

Bring along your digital cameras to capture the craters on the moon, Mars, the moons of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn, galaxies, clusters, and other cool stuff off our live video feed from the large telescopes we use there. For more information on the Escambia Amateur Astronomers visit www.eaaa.net or call Dr. Wayne Wooten in the Physical Sciences Department of Pensacola State College at

(850) 484-1152, or e-mail him at wwooten@pensacolastate.edu.

Join them on Facebook at Escambia Amateur Astronomers Association.

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