Full Moon, Lunar Eclipse in Europe, and the Perseid Meteor Shower

This week we have a Full Moon, and a Lunar Eclipse (not visible here in the US) signaling the upcoming Solar Eclipse on August 21st.  The Perseid Meteor shower reaches it peak rates on Saturday morning before sunrise, and there is much more to see.  Here is your guide to the sky for August 7 to 13, 2017…

Sun, Moon, and invisible lunar eclipse

Full Moon takes place today at 2:11 pm, and there is a partial lunar eclipse at that time, but it is not visible here in Maine.  To see it you would need to be in Europe or Africa, but it marks the way for the upcoming solar eclipse later this month.  Solar and Lunar Eclipses take place in pairs as the Lunar orbit will have the Moon at the node, or intersection of Earth’s orbital plane and the Moon’s orbital plane, for one lunar cycle.  In this case the first eclipse is a partial lunar one happening today on August 7th, and the second one the Total Solar Eclipse is on August 21st.  Remember that Lunar Eclipses can only take place at Full Moon, and Solar Eclipses at New Moon. The August Friday night show Totality – Explore the Wonders of Eclipses shares all of the conditions for eclipses, science we learn and how to see them safely.  Do check it out!.  See http://astro.umaine.edu for details and tickets.

As summer moves on our days are shortening a bit. Sunrise this week is at 5:32 am and sunset at 7:48.  This is the last week for the Sun to be in Cancer the Crab.

Planets for the week

Mercury which is low in twilight after sunset is stationary on Saturday, but is challenging to see in evening twilight.  Brilliant Jupiter is in the southwest at but getting lower and sets at 10:00 pm.  The ringed jewel  Saturn is high in the south at sunset and brilliant Venus rising around 2:30am in the east as a bright morning star.  Mars continues to be lost in the glow of the Sun.  For a challenge this week, try finding Uranus.  It is at the limit of human sight, so binoculars often are needed to spot this planet.  Sunday it will appear four degrees north of the Moon.  It has a very distinct greenish hue, so you will know when you spot it, as there are no “green stars’ in our night sky.

August 10 at 10:30 pm – star chart by Heavens-Above.com

Perseid Meteor Shower Weekend

On August 12th the Perseids which is the best annual meteor shower peaks around 2:30 am.  You might see a few earlier in the week in the late evening hours, but your best views are in the early morning hours.    If the weather cooperates, the Perseid  observing event on the evening of Friday, August 11th will take place at Emera Astronomy Center on the hill behind the observatories.  It starts at 9:00pm and will go into the early morning hours of August 12.   See http://www.hirundomaine.org/http:/www.hirundomaine.org/category/upcoming-programs for information on the program, and keep your fingers crossed for clear weather.

International Space Station Passes

This week we have several bright passes of ISS in the early evening hours, making it an easy target to see.  Tonight look for it from 9:47 to 9:51 pm moving from west-northwest to southwest.  Tuesday night is the brightest pass for the week at -3.9 magnitude (as bright as Venus) from 8:54 to 9:00 pm moving from west-northwest to east.  See it again on Wednesday from 9:39 to 9:42 pm moving from west-northwest to southwest. On Thursday you can see it from 8:46 to 8:52 pm moving from west to south.  On Saturday see it from 8:38 to 8:43 pm moving from west to south again.

Check out ISS, see some Perseids, look for Jupiter and Saturn, or try to find faint Uranus.  There is always something to observe in Maine’s skies. Happy summer stargazing and keep your eye on the sky!

Shawn Laatsch

About Shawn Laatsch

Shawn Laatsch is the director of the Emera Astronomy Center and Jordan Planetarium at the University of Maine. He started his astronomy education career in 1984 and has directed planetariums in university and science center facilities, taught undergraduate astronomy courses, and given numerous lectures around the globe. He serves as President (2017 & 2018) of the International Planetarium Society, Inc. the world’s largest organization of planetarium professionals. Shawn has a passion for sharing astronomy and stargazing with people of all ages.