Curtains going down on the Venus, Saturn and Jupiter show

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I hope you have been enjoying the sky show put on by Venus, Saturn and Jupiter for the last week or so. The bright objects have made the just-after-sunset viewing a great experience.

However, as with all good things, they must come to an eventual end. Venus and Saturn are setting, along with the spring constellation Leo, about an hour after sunset each day leaving Jupiter alone in the south to rule the evening sky.

The Summer Triangle (Vega, Deneb, and Altair) is making a good showing in the early evening hours in the east and Hercules and Bootes are overhead. In the south Scorpius and Sagittarius show off the finery of the southern Milky Way and Pegasus, a constellation of autumn, is sneaking over the eastern horizon.

The Perseid meteor shower is coming up the weekend of August 11-13 and with the Moon out of the way it should make a good showing. Get your dark-sky spot picked out and be ready for an evening of meteor watching. The best time to watch will be toward midnight on Sunday, August 12 and the early morning hours of August 13.

Meteor showers are the leftovers from passing comets. They are about the size of a grain of sand but make such a spectacular showing when they encounter the Earth's atmosphere. It is fun to see how many you can count in an hour. This year we can expect 50 to 60 meteors per hour from the Perseids.

For you early risers, Mars and the waning crescent Moon will be close together about an hour to an hour and a half before sunrise on Aug. 7. Look in the east for the pair. Mars will the the bright red dot to the right of the Moon. Joining the group will be the tiny star cluster Pleiades above the Moon and the bright star Aldebaran in Taurus, the Bull below. If you look carefully below the group you will find the winter constellation Orion just over the horizon.

SKY WATCH: Third quarter Moon on August 5, and the Mars-Moon conjunction on August 7 in the wee hour of the morning.

Next time: get ready for a total lunar eclipse.

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