The August 2017 Night Sky

Welcome to the August night sky. This month is not so good for observing planets as only Saturn is easily visible low in the south during the early evenings. Saturn is in the constellation of Ophiuchus, the serpent bearer, and this constellation is actually the 13th sign of the Zodiac as the Sun passes through it from November 29 to December 17.

The astronomically correct signs of the Zodiac are quite different to the astrological ones used to make horoscopes as they are based on virtual data from 2,000 years that is now misaligned with the true positions of the celestial objects.

August 12 is the traditional peak of the normally reliable Perseid meteor shower. This month the Moon is five days past full and will still be shining brightly in the night sky, so any faint meteors will be difficult to observe.

The 21st sees a total eclipse of the Sun visible from most of North America. This Eclipse has the potential to be one of the most watched of modern times as the path of totality makes landfall on the coast of Oregon and then passes through a total of 14 states to leave the U.S. at the Atlantic coast of South Carolina.

The best chance of having a clear sky will be in the western U.S. but the maximum duration of totality will be close to a small town in Illinois called Carbondale and NASA will be setting up an observing station there. This town is special because the next total solar eclipse visible from the U.S. on April 8, 2024 has a path of totality that crosses the 2017 track right over this town. The 2017 path crosses the U.S. from Northwest to Southeast, and the 2024 path crosses the U.S.

from Southwest to Northeast and this makes a giant virtual Cross right over the entire country with the X marks the spot being Carbondale.

Interestingly the closest big town to Carbondale is called Cape Girardeau and allegedly in the spring of 1941, a UFO crashed there and alien bodies were recovered making this one of the first E.T. contacts in the U.S. So, if you believe these things, a lot of coincidences are adding up, and maybe NASA has good reason to be there… or maybe not. Anyway, a lot of people will be there to see one of nature’s most spectacular events.

The Moon will be full on the 7th, last quarter on the 15th, new on the 21st and first quarter on August 29.

By Clive Jackson
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Clive Jackson is the Director of the Camera Obscura (next to the Castle in Tavira), specialising in education and public outreach.
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To see the August Sky Map click on the pdf link below