Weymouth Astronomy

The Planets - August 2018

Observing the planets can be extremely rewarding. Everyone remembers the first time they observed Saturn and it's rings or the gas giant Jupiter and it's Galillean Moons. Solar System


Mercury, the innermost planet having passed between the Earth and Sun (inferior conjunction) on August 9th becomes visible after the 20th before reaching greatest elongation east of the Sun on the 26th of the month.


Venus can be seen low in the west after nightfall sinking towards the horizon as the month progresses. During August, its illuminated phase thins from 57% to 29%. Venus moves towards Spica in Virgo as August progresses and ends the month just one degree below the star.


Mars moving in retrograde motion westwards in Capricornus made its closest approach to Earth since 2003 on the night of July 30th/31st. With a small telescope it should be possible to spot details such as Syrtis Major, on its salmon-pink surface.


Jupiter can be seen in the southwest soon after sunset at the start of the month. Jupiter's equatorial bands, sometimes the Great Red Spot and up to four of its Gallilean moons may be visible in a small telescope. Jupiter is heading towards the southern part of the ecliptic and will only have an elevation of 15 degrees after sunset.


Saturn was at opposition on the 27th of June and will be visible in the south at an elevation of 15 degrees after sunset at the beginning of August. Saturn currently lying in Sagittarius is close to the topmost star of the 'teapot' slowly moving in retrograde to within a few degrees of M8 the Lagoon Nebula, and M20 the Trifid Nebula.

Information collated from Jodrell Bank and Astronomy Now magazine