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Sunday, 18 August 2019  •  Sunday, 18 Hazel Moon 2019

Watching the night sky in Hazel Moon 2019

1 - 30 August 2019

Map of night sky at full moon: 15 August, 12:29 UTC
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Hazel Moon 2019

Jupiter shines very brightly in the evening sky, setting around midnight. On the evening of 9 August, the moon is north of the giant planet. Not far round to the south (as seen from the northern hemisphere) is Saturn, which sets in the early hours, and can be seen in the north of the constellation Sagittarius. Jupiter is gradually moving through the starry background towards the ringed planet. On 12 August, the moon passes very near to Saturn, and occults it as seen from parts of the South Pacific, the east coast of Australia (New South Wales northwards) and Papua New Guinea.

From Sydney in Australia, the occultation lasts from 18:36 to 19:23 (08:36 to 09:23 UTC).
From Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, the occultation starts just before sunset, and lasts from 17:56 to 19:03 (07:56 to 09:03 UTC).
From Suva in Fiji, the occultation lasts from 21:12 to 22:45 (09:12 to 10:45 UTC).
From Papeete on Tahiti, the occultation lasts from 00:36 to 01:51 (10:36 to 11:51 UTC). All times, local and UTC, are for 12 August.

On 8 August, Mercury reaches 19°W of the sun in the eastern morning sky. The view isn’t great from anywhere on Earth, but a little easier from the northern hemisphere, where Mercury may be seen low down in the east-north-east before dawn for all but the last week or so of the month.

Venus passes the far side of the sun on 14 August, and is out of view all month.
Mars is also on the far side of the solar system. At the start of the month, it may still be seen low in the WNW in southern lands, but soon disappears into the twilight.

Look out for the great northern summer meteor shower, the Perseids, on the night 12/13 August, especially in the early hours, when the moon is more out of the way.

The month ahead: Vine Moon 2019

31 August - 28 September 2019

Map of night sky at full moon: 14 September, 04:33 UTC
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Vine Moon 2019

Jupiter shines very brightly in the early and mid-evening sky, drawing slowly ever closer to Saturn against the starry background. On the evenings of 6 and 7 September, the moon is near Jupiter. On the evening of 8 September, the moon is very close to Saturn, and occults it as seen from parts of northern Australia, southern Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. From Darwin, in Australia’s Northern Territory, the moon covers Saturn from 00:08 to 01:20 on the morning of 9 September (8 Sep, 14:38 to 15:50 UTC). From Port Moresby, in Papua New Guinea, the times are 00:56 to 01:55 (14:56 to 15:55 UTC).

On 9 September, the ice giant Neptune comes closest to the Earth: 4327.6 million kilometres, or 4.01 light hours away. On 10 September, it is opposite the sun in the constellation Aquarius, near the naked eye star Phi Aquarii, which it passed just 13 seconds of arc to the south on 6 September. Look for Neptune through good binoculars or a telescope.

On 13 September, Mercury passes close south of Venus, and from southern lands you may just be able to see them very low down in the west immediately after sunset. Venus is the brighter of the two. As the month continues, and again really only from the southern hemisphere, you can watch Mercury climb higher above the sunset, and indeed higher above Venus. On 28 September, Mercury is near Spica, the bright star of Virgo, and is brighter than the star. From the northern hemisphere, the very low angle of the ecliptic (plane of the solar system) at this time of year means that by the time the sun has set long enough for the sky to darken sufficiently, Mercury and Venus have already gone below the horizon themselves.

Mars passes the far side of the sun on 2 September, out of view from Earth, but should just be visible from northern lands low in the eastern morning sky by the end of the month. From these parts you may also be lucky enough to see a very, very thin old moon nearby on 28 September, just north of east, and just north of Mars. You will need a good view of the horizon, and a clear morning. From London, the moon rises at 06:02 BST, and the sun at 06:55, so there should be time to see it, but the moon will be just 13 hours from being completely dark. If you can see it, the moon will be right “on its back”, and it’s also possible that all you will be able to see will be earthshine.

William Morris
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