Astronomy News for the Month of August 2020

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In this Newsletter...

Background screen credits: NGC5775
Imaged March 21/22, 2001
using the 16" Kitt Peak Visitors Center telescope
as part of the Kitt Peak Advanced Observing Program.

"Perseid meteors streak away from the shower's radiant in 2018, with the Milky Way as a backdrop." Astronomy Magazine, p. 36, August 2020.
Tony Hallas

The Month At-A-Glance
A calendar displaying the daily astronomical events.

08 day moon

The Moon



Moon/Planet Pairs

For reference: The Full Moon subtends an angle of ~0.5°.

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The Planets & Dwarf Planets

Planetary Reports generated by "TheSkyX" software. These reports provide predicted data for the planets for the first of each month for the current year. The rise and set times for the Sun and the Moon for each day of the month as well as meteor shower radiants are also included in the reports. These reports have been optimized for the Denver, Colorado location, however, the times will be approximate for other locations on Earth.

(All times are local unless otherwise noted.)

Planetary Highlights for August

"The summertime planetary bonanza continues through August as Jupiter and Saturn maintain their dominance of the southern sky soon after sunset and remain visible all night. Jupiter's moons offer a triple dose of combined Io and Ganymede transits. After midnight, it's time for Mars, which is really brightening now and is a fine object in telescopes. Together with the Red Planet, Uranus and Neptune share a traditionally dim region of the sky. In the hours before dawn, Venus provides a treat and Mercury is visible during the first week of the month, low in the northeast." Astronomy Magazine, August 2020, P. 36.

"The famous Perseid meteor shower is active between July 17 and August 24, and peaks on August 12. The predawn hours are the best for viewing the shower, but this year a Last Quarter Moon in Aries adds a lot of light to the sky. Consequently, low rates of only the brightest meteors will be observable." Astronomy Magazine, August 2020, P. 37.


Is in superior conjunction on the 17th. Mercury rises at 4:39 a.m. on the 1st, but quickly descends toward the eastern horizon until conjunction when it swings behind the Sun, returning to the evening sky. Look for Mercury low to the east about 30 minutes before sunrise during the first week of the month. After conjunction, Mercury will be visible low to the west about 30 minutes after sunset during the last week of the month in the evening sky. Mercury sets at 8:05 p.m. by month's end. Mercury moves from the constellation of Gemini into Leo shining at magnitude -0.9 on the 1st.


Is at greatest western elongation (46°) on the 12th. Venus rises at 2:43 a.m. on the 1st and about 2:50 a.m. by month's end. Look for Venus in the east before sunrise. Venus moves from the constellation of Taurus into Gemini shining at magnitude -4.4 on the 15th.




Rises at 11:14 p.m. on the 1st and about 9:36 p.m. by month's end. Mars is at perihelion (128.4 million miles from the Sun) on the 3rd. Mars is now visible in the late evening, but still best observed after midnight. Look to the south after midnight to spot Mars. Mars is in the constellation of Pisces shining at magnitude -1.4.


Rises at 6:58 p.m. on the 1st and about 4:47 p.m. by month's end. Look for Jupiter soon after sunset. Jupiter will be one of the first objects to be spotted once the Sun sets to the east. Follow Jupiter across the sky all night long this month. Jupiter is in the constellation of Sagittarius shining at magnitude -2.7.


Rises at 7:24 p.m. on the 1st and around 5:16 p.m. by month's end. As with Jupiter, look for Saturn in the evening sky after sunset to the east. Now is a great time to get your binoculars or telescope out and observe Saturn for most of the night. Saturn is in the constellation of Sagittarius shining at magnitude 0.2.


Rises at 11:55 p.m. on the 1st and around 9:53 p.m. by month's end. Uranus is also visible in the late evening but is still best viewed after midnight under dark skies. Look for Uranus to the south before sunrise. Uranus is in the constellation of Aries shining at magnitude 5.8.


Rises at 9:54 p.m. on the 1st and about 7:51 p.m. by month's end. Neptune can be spotted to the southeast once the skies darken. Neptune can be observed all night long. Neptune is in the constellation of Aquarius shining at magnitude 7.8.

Dwarf Planets


Is at opposition on the 28th. Ceres rises at 10:36 p.m. on the 1st and around 8:26 p.m. by month's end. The best time to spot Ceres will be around midnight, when it is highest in the south. Ceres is in the constellation of Aquarius shining at magnitude 7.8.


Rises at 7:12 p.m. on the 1st and around 5:08 p.m. by month's end. Pluto is about half way between Jupiter and Saturn and may be visible if skies are dark enough. Pluto is in the constellation of Sagittarius shining at magnitude 14.7.

As always, good luck at spotting Neptune, Ceres and Pluto, a large telescope and dark skies will be needed.

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Astronomical Events

Meteor Showers

  • The Northern Delta Aquarids [meteor shower] extends from July 16 to September 10. Maximum occurs on August 13. The hourly rates reach a high of 10.

  • The Perseids meteor shower is generally visible between July 23 and August 22. Maximum occurs during August 12/13. The hourly rate typically reaches 80, although some years have been as low as 4 and as high as 200. The meteors tend to be very fast, possess an average magnitude of 2.3 and leave persistent trains.

    Meteor Shower Radiant Report

    For more information about Meteor Showers, visit Gary Kronk's Meteor Showers Online web page.

    Meteor Scatter (or Meteor burst communications) - "is a radio propagation mode that exploits the ionized trails of meteors during atmospheric entry to establish brief communications paths between radio stations up to 2,250 kilometres (1,400 mi) apart." Tune your shortwave or your HF amateur radio to 54.310 MHz SSB and see if you can hear any pings. Try other frequencies as well... 6m FT8 digital - 50.313 Mhz & 50.276 Mhz, JP-65 digital mode and the carrier frequencies of the lower VHF bands for TV channels 2, 3 & 4.

    Meteor Rx How-To by Terry Bullett (WØASP)

  • Comets

  • Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE is now in the constellation of Virgo. From the handle of the Big Dipper, follow the arc to Arcturus, then continue that line down with binoculars to spot Comet NEOWISE as it continues to fade.

  • Comet 88P/Howell is also passing through the constellation of Virgo this month, but is a bit dimmer than NEOWISE, shining at 11th magnitude, so will require at least a 4-inch telescope to view.

  • For information, orbital elements and ephemerides on observable comets, visit the Observable Comets page from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

    For more information about Comets, visit Gary Kronk's webpage.

  • Eclipses

    Solar Eclipses

  • No solar eclipse activity this month.

    Lunar Eclipses

  • No lunar eclipse activity this month.
  • Observational Opportunities

  • Look for Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune all night long.
  • Look for Mars and Uranus in the late evening and early morning.
  • Look for Comets NEOWISE and Howell in the late evening.
  • Look for Venus in the morning before sunrise.
  • Look for Mercury in the early morning sky during the first week of the month and then in the early evening during the last week of the month.

  • Asteroids

    (From west to east)

    IOTA Logo

  • Information on various occultations can be found by clicking the IOTA logo.
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    Subscriber Gallery

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    Member Meteor Sightings

    In this section I will post meteor, fireball, etc sightings that have been published on the American Meteor Society's web site. I want to make this an active section of the web pages and newsletter and would like to publish the links to member sightings. If you have any published sightings, please provide me with the links and I will post them here for all to enjoy.

    Event ID Date/Time Location Observer Link
    3587-2015 2015-11-22 17:38 MST CO Kevin S 3587aw
    3829-2015 2015-12-05 18:06 MST CO Burness A 3829a
    3871-2015 2015-11-13 01:55 MST CO Charles N 3871a
    986-2020 2020-02-21 22:20 MST CO Lukas S 986
    3716-2020 2020-07-24 23:22 MST CO Lukas S 3716

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    Planetary/Lunar Exploration Missions

    (Excerpts from recent JPL mission updates)

    JPL Latest News
    The Latest from Space

    JPL Latest News

    July 30, 2020
    NASA, ULA Launch Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover Mission to Red Planet

    Full Article & Images

    "NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission is on its way to the Red Planet to search for signs of ancient life and collect samples to send back to Earth. Humanity's most sophisticated rover launched with the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at 7:50 a.m. EDT (4:50 a.m. PDT) Thursday on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

    "With the launch of Perseverance, we begin another historic mission of exploration," said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. "This amazing explorer's journey has already required the very best from all of us to get it to launch through these challenging times. Now we can look forward to its incredible science and to bringing samples of Mars home even as we advance human missions to the Red Planet. As a mission, as an agency, and as a country, we will persevere." "

    Read the latest news and discoveries from JPL's dozens of active space missions exploring Earth, the solar system and worlds beyond.

    Past, Present, Future and Proposed JPL Missions.

    For special JPL programs and presentations in your area visit the JPL Solar System Ambassador web site.

    Juno - July 22, 2020
    NASA Juno Takes First Images of Jovian Moon Ganymede's North Pole

    Full Article & Images

    "On its way inbound for a Dec. 26, 2019, flyby of Jupiter, NASA's Juno spacecraft flew in the proximity of the north pole of the ninth-largest object in the solar system, the moon Ganymede. The infrared imagery collected by the spacecraft's Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument provides the first infrared mapping of the massive moon's northern frontier.

    Larger than the planet Mercury, Ganymede consists primarily of water ice. Its composition contains fundamental clues for understanding the evolution of the 79 Jovian moons from the time of their formation to today."

    Images from NASA's JunoCam.

    More information on the Juno mission is available at: Juno and Mission Juno.

    The public can follow the Juno mission on Facebook and Twitter.

    New Horizons - July 17, 2020
    Memories of an Amazing Encounter

    Full Article & Images

    "No Sleep Until After the Flyby

    Gabe Rogers, an engineer at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, was the New Horizons Guidance and Control subsystem lead during the mission's historic flyby of Pluto in July 2015. He currently serves as New Horizons' deputy mission system engineer.

    Guidance and Control system lead Gabe Rogers awaits the outcome of a May 2015 trajectory correction maneuver in the New Horizons Mission Operations Center at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. (Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Southwest Research Institute)

    By the Pluto flyby on July 14, 2015, most of the New Horizons engineering team was running on fumes. The spacecraft had been operating in 3-axis (observation) mode for most of the year, conducting optical navigation, long-distance science, and the occasional trajectory correction maneuver to stay on course. Given the cadence of communications with New Horizons through NASA's Deep Space Network, sometimes I would be on shift starting at 6 a.m., only to start another shift at 8 p.m. the same day."

    New Horizons gallery

    Find New Horizons in the iTunes App Store.

    For more information on the New Horizons mission - the first mission to the ninth planet - visit the New Horizons home page.

    TESS - June 30, 2020
    NASA's TESS Delivers New Insights Into an Ultrahot World

    Full Article & Images

    "Measurements from NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) have enabled astronomers to greatly improve their understanding of the bizarre environment of KELT-9 b, one of the hottest planets known.

    "The weirdness factor is high with KELT-9 b," said John Ahlers, an astronomer at Universities Space Research Association in Columbia, Maryland, and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "It's a giant planet in a very close, nearly polar orbit around a rapidly rotating star, and these features complicate our ability to understand the star and its effects on the planet." "

    For more information on the TESS mission, visit the Latest Tess Stories page.

    Past, Present, Future and Proposed JPL Missions

    Visit JPL's mission pages for current status.

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    Mars Missions

    Be A Martian

    Mars website mobile version is here!

    Mars Daily Weather Report

    Mars on the Go! NASA Be A Martian Mobile App
    If you want the latest news as it happens, try our Be A Martian app.
    Download on Mobile Devices
    Android | iPhone | Windows Phone

    JMARS is an acronym that stands for Java Mission-planning and Analysis for Remote Sensing. It is a geospatial information system (GIS) developed by ASU's Mars Space Flight Facility to provide mission planning and data-analysis tools to NASA's orbiters, instrument team members, students of all ages, and the general public.

    Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics

    "The Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU) began in 1948, a decade before NASA. We are the world's only research institute to have sent instruments to all eight planets and Pluto.

    LASP combines all aspects of space exploration through our expertise in science, engineering, mission operations, and scientific data analysis. As part of CU, LASP also works to educate and train the next generation of space scientists, engineers and mission operators by integrating undergraduate and graduate students into working teams. Our students take their unique experiences with them into government or industry, or remain in academia to continue the cycle of exploration.

    LASP is an affiliate of CU-Boulder AeroSpace Ventures, a collaboration among aerospace-related departments, institutes, centers, government labs, and industry partners."

    LASP/MAVEN - July 14, 2020
    Emirates Mars Mission launching this month in partnership with LASP at CU Boulder

    Full Article & Images

    "The Emirates Mars Mission, the first interplanetary exploration undertaken by an Arab nation, is scheduled to launch this month on Mitsubishi H-IIA launch platform from Tanegashima, Japan and arrive at Mars in February 2021, coinciding with The Emirates' 50th anniversary as a nation. The mission is being carried out by the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC) in the UAE in collaboration with a number of US research institutions, including the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder."

    Visit LASP and MAVEN for more information.

    Mars 2020 - Perseverance - July 30, 2020
    NASA, ULA Launch Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover Mission to Red Planet

    Full Article & Images

    "NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover mission is on its way to the Red Planet to search for signs of ancient life and collect samples to send back to Earth.

    Humanity's most sophisticated rover launched with the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter at 7:50 a.m. EDT (4:50 a.m. PDT) Thursday on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida."

    Learn more about the upcoming Mars 2020 (Perseverance) mission.

    Mars Science Laboratory - Curiosity - July 6, 2020
    Curiosity Mars Rover's Summer Road Trip Has Begun

    Full Article & Images

    "NASA's Curiosity Mars rover has started a road trip that will continue through the summer across roughly a mile (1.6 kilometers) of terrain. By trip's end, the rover will be able to ascend to the next section of the 3-mile-tall Martian (5-kilometer-tall) mountain it's been exploring since 2014, searching for conditions that may have supported ancient microbial life.

    Located on the floor of Gale Crater, Mount Sharp is composed of sedimentary layers that built up over time. Each layer helps tell the story about how Mars changed from being more Earth-like – with lakes, streams and a thicker atmosphere – to the nearly-airless, freezing desert it is today."

    Follow the Mars Curiosity rover on Foursquare.

    For information about NASA's partnership with Foursquare.

      Mars Rover Landing - Free for the Xbox 360 (requires Kinect)

      Visit the Mars Science Laboratory page.

    Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission - February 18, 2020
    NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Undergoes Memory Update

    Full Article & Image

    "From Feb. 17 to Feb. 29, 2020, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) will go on hiatus from its science mission and its relay operations while engineers on Earth conduct long-distance maintenance. During the hiatus, other orbiters will relay data from the Mars Curiosity rover and Mars InSight lander to Earth.

    The maintenance work involves updating battery parameters in the spacecraft's flash memory - a rare step that's been done only twice before in the orbiter's 15 years of flight. This special update is necessary because it was recently determined that the battery parameters in flash were out of date and if used, would not charge MRO's batteries to the desired levels."

    All of the HiRISE images are archived here.

    More information about the MRO mission is available online.

    Mars Odyssey Orbiter - June 8, 2020
    Three New Views of Mars' Moon Phobos

    Full Article and Images

    "Three new views of the Martian moon Phobos have been captured by NASA's Odyssey orbiter. Taken this past winter and this spring, they capture the moon as it drifts into and out of Mars' shadow.

    The orbiter's infrared camera, the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), has been used to measure temperature variations across the surface of Phobos that provide insight into the composition and physical properties of the moon. Further study could help settle a debate over whether Phobos, which is about 16 miles (25 kilometers) across, is a captured asteroid or an ancient chunk of Mars that was blasted off the surface by an impact."

    Daily Mars Odyssey THEMIS Images
    Can be found at the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) website.

    The Odyssey data are available through a new online access system established by the Planetary Data System.

    Visit the Mars Odyssey Mission page.

    Journey to Mars - InSight - Revealing the Heart of Mars - July 7, 2020
    NASA's InSight Flexes Its Arm While Its 'Mole' Hits Pause

    Full Article and Images

    "NASA's InSight lander has been using its robotic arm to help the heat probe known as the "mole" burrow into Mars. The mission is providing the first look at the Red Planet's deep interior to reveal details about the formation of Mars and, ultimately, all rocky planets, including Earth.

    Akin to a 16-inch-long (40-centimeter-long) pile driver, the self-hammering mole has experienced difficulty getting into the Martian soil since February 2019. It's mostly buried now, thanks to recent efforts to push down on the mole with the scoop on the end of the robotic arm. But whether it will be able to dig deep enough -- at least 10 feet (3 meters) - to get an accurate temperature reading of the planet remains to be seen. Images taken by InSight during a Saturday, June 20, hammering session show bits of soil jostling within the scoop - possible evidence that the mole had begun bouncing in place, knocking the bottom of the scoop.

    While the campaign to save the mole continues, the arm will be used to help carry out other science and engineering work. Here's what you can expect in the months ahead from the mission, which is led by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California."

    Interactive selection of raw images taken by the cameras aboard InSight.

    Learn more about the InSight Mission.

    Mars Missions Status

    New Mars missions are being planned to include several new rover and sample collection missions. Check out the Mars Missions web page and the Mars Exploration page.

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    Astronomy Links and Other Space News

    (If you have a link you would like to recommend to our readers, please feel free to submit it.)

    Green Laser

    Colorado Astronomy Links

    Radio Astronomy Links

    Other Astronomy Links

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    Astronomical Lexicon

    Definitions of astronomical terms. Many of the astronomical terms used in this newsletter are defined here.

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    Read the Universe Today Newsletter by clicking on the logo.

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    Acknowledgments and References

    Much of the information in this newsletter is from Astronomy® Magazine (Kalmbach Publishing), JPL mission status reports, the Internet, "Meteor Showers - A descriptive Catalog" by Gary W. Kronk, Sky & Telescope web pages, and other astronomical sources that I have stashed on my bookshelves.

    The author will accept any suggestions, constructive criticisms, and corrections. Please feel free to send me any new links or articles to share as well. I will try to accommodate any reasonable requests. Please feel free to send questions, comments, criticisms, or donations to the email address listed below. Enjoy!

    More Acknowledgements and References

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