Photo Klemen Vrankar Unsplash
Photo Klemen Vrankar Unsplash

Algarve Skies: The August 2023 Night Sky

Welcome to the August night sky. This month, the nights are becoming noticeably longer and slightly cooler.

The summer constellations are still on show, along with the Milky-Way star clouds, and, seen overhead, the Summer Triangle containing the stars Deneb, Vega, and Altair.

The bright planet Venus that was so noticeable during the early summer, when it was high in the west, has now moved down towards the horizon and will become practically unobservable this month as on the 13th it passes close to the Sun.

Also, the planets Mercury and Mars are disappearing towards the western horizon and being lost in the evening twilight. In compensation for this, over in the east we can see rising the ringed planet Saturn that comes to opposition on August 27.

Saturn is in the constellation of Aquarius and the rings are, at this moment, at a shallow angle of eight degrees as seen from the Earth. This tilt will reduce to zero degrees in 2025 when the famous rings will disappear for a few weeks as seen in a small telescope. This is a normal occurrence that happens about every 15 years. Also, through a small telescope, several Moons are visible around Saturn; in fact, 63 Moons have names, but the ringed planet has many more Moons than these.

After midnight, the gas giant planet Jupiter rises in the east with its four large Moons visible in any telescope. At the same time of night, over in the northeast and low down, the bright star Capella can be seen rising. This is a white star but, when seen low in the night sky, it will flash all the colours of the rainbow and has been responsible for many UFO reports.

August has two full Moons, both of which are considered super-Moons as the Moon is at perigee and thus significantly larger and brighter than normal.

The night of August 12 is the traditional peak of the Perseid meteor shower. This shower is dust from the tail of comet Swift-Tuttle and, with luck, about 100 shooting stars can be seen every hour. To see faint meteors, the sky must be dark and, at this time of the month, the bright Moon is out of the nighttime sky, being just four days away from new.

The Moon is at full on the 1st, first quarter on the 8th, new on the 16th, last quarter on the 24th, and full Moon again on August 31.

August 2023 night sky

Clive Jackson is the Director of the Camera Obscura – Tavira EYE (next to the Castle in Tavira), specialising in education and public outreach.

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