August will bring a variety of wonderful things to see in the night sky. The highlight, of course, will be the Perseid meteor shower.
If you’re only going to make an effort to see one meteor shower this year, the Perseids are the one to see. They are so named because the meteors appear to radiate from the constellation Perseus. The Perseids are actually a result of Earth traveling through a stream of debris left behind by Comet 109p/Swift-Tuttle. This periodic comet continues to add to the debris on each of its 133-year orbits around the Sun. Its last pass was in 1992 and the next will be in 2126.
Comet of Origin: 109P/Swift-Tuttle
Radiant: constellation Perseus
Active: July 13-Aug. 26, 2015
Peak Activity: Aug. 12-13, 2015
Peak Activity Meteor Count: Up to 100 meteors per hour
Meteor Velocity: 37 miles (59 kilometers) per second
The Summer Triangle, marked by the bright stars Deneb in the constellation Cygnus, Vega in the constellation Lyra and Altair in the constellation Aquila, will continue to climb high in the sky and will be directly overhead during the peak of the Perseid meteor shower on August 13th. The Moon will not be a distraction for it will reach “new” on August 14th.
The Great Square of Pegasus is also on the rise. Nearby you may be able to see The Great Andromeda Galaxy (left), which is visible with the naked eye in very dark skies, but an easy binocular target even in moderately dark skies.
The Andromeda Galaxy image is courtesy of renowned astro-photographer Jason Ware (Palomar data courtesy of Caltech). You can see this and more of Jason’s work on his website at galaxyphoto.com