This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report through August 9, 2017. Here’s what’s happening in the skies of southern California.
The innermost planet, Mercury, is most easily seen in the evening twilight between about 8:15 and 8:30 p.m. through the 8th. Mercury appears similar to a bright star, located very low over the western horizon.
The giant planet, Jupiter, in the constellation Virgo the Maiden, is the brilliant object in the west-southwest after sunset, and it sets by about 11:40 p.m. Jupiter’s cloud belts and storms are fascinating to watch through a telescope, but look soon because in a few weeks Jupiter will be too low in the sky to get a clear view of them. This week, however, Jupiter’s colorful oval storm, the Great Red Spot, will be best seen on Monday the 7th when it is located close to the center of the planet’s disk at 9:00 p.m.
The golden planet Saturn, in Ophiuchus the Snake Bearer, is the brightest object in the south as darkness falls. Saturn’s beautiful rings are visible through nearly any telescope. Saturn sets in the west-southwest at about 2:15 a.m.
The moon is waxing gibbous until it becomes full on the 7th. On that morning, during the day in the Western Hemisphere, a partial lunar eclipse occurs. This eclipse is only visible from the Eastern Hemisphere. At the maximum of the eclipse, a quarter of the moon will be covered by the dark umbra of Earth’s shadow. Lunar eclipses always follow or precede a solar eclipse by two weeks. The August 7th eclipse precedes the August 21 solar eclipse, which will be partial in Los Angeles, and total within a 70-mile wide path that crosses the United States from Oregon to South Carolina. After the 7th, the moon is waning gibbous. The moon appears close to Saturn on the 2nd.
The brightest planet, Venus, is eye-catching in the east-northeast from its rising at 3:20 a.m. until sunrise. Through telescopes, Venus currently appears small and gibbous.
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 from Tuesday through Sunday, before 9:30 p.m. Check our website for the schedule. The next free 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 26th.
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From Griffith Observatory, I’m Anthony Cook, and I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.