This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report for the week ending Wednesday, August 7, 2013. Here is what’s happening in the skies of Southern California:
You can’t miss the brilliant white planet Venus in the evening twilight. Venus, the brightest planet, is above the western horizon for about 90 minutes after sunset. Through a telescope, the cloud-covered planet displays a gibbous phase.
Starting about 30 minutes after sunset, the ringed planet Saturn is also visible. Saturn is above the southwest horizon in Virgo the Maiden. It appears a little higher than Venus, and sets in the west-southwest at midnight. A telescope is needed to see Saturn’s spectacular system of rings, now tilted about 18 degrees in our direction.
Look just above the east-northeast horizon during dawn, at 5:20 a.m., to see three morning planets. The brightest of the three, Jupiter, is also the highest. Below Jupiter is orange Mars and between Mars and the horizon is Mercury. The waning crescent moon will pose near the three planets on the mornings of the 3rd and 4th.
A popular summertime astronomical event, the Perseid meteor shower, will reach its peak on the nights and early mornings of August 11/12 and 12/13 next week, but some activity can already be seen. From a dark wilderness location in the hour before dawn, you should expect to see meteors in increasing numbers, from 5 to 17 per hour between the 1st and the 7th. The numbers should increase to about 80 per hour at the peak.
The International Space station should make a spectacular passage, 261 miles above Los Angeles, on the evening of Sunday, August 4. The ISS will cross the entire sky, from southwest to northeast between 9:07 and 9:14 p.m., P.D.T. Rivaling Venus in brightness, the ISS will pass nearly overhead at 9:11 p.m.
Free views of the sun during the day and of the moon, planets, and other celestial objects at night, are available to the public in clear weather through Griffith Observatory’s telescopes Tuesday-Sunday before 9:30 p.m. Check our website for our schedule. The next public star party on the grounds of Griffith Observatory, hosted by the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, the Sidewalk Astronomers, and the Planetary Society, will take place on Saturday, August 17.
From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook and I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.