This is the Griffith Observatory Sky Report through August 16, 2017. Here’s what’s happening in the skies of southern California.
The Perseid meteor shower reaches its peak on the night of August 12-13. Although the number of Perseid meteors normally increases between 10:00 p.m. and 4:42 a.m., when dawn starts, this year’s shower will have to compete with the increasing light of the gibbous moon from its rising at 10:22 p.m. Even without any artificial light pollution, moonlight will diminish the observed rate of meteors, which is usually greatest before dawn with an average maximum rate of 60 per hour. Perseid meteors, in smaller numbers, can be seen between July 17 and August 24.
The planet Jupiter, in the constellation Virgo the Maiden, is the brilliant object visible in the west-southwest after sunset. The giant planet is visible until it sets in the west before 10:30 p.m.
The planet Saturn, in Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer, appears similar to a bright golden star as it crosses the meridian in the south before nightfall. This is currently the best time of the year to see Saturn through a telescope in the early evening. The rings now display their maximum tilt of 27 degrees to Earth.
The moon reaches last quarter on the evening of the 14th, and afterwards it is waning crescent before it reaches new on the 21st, the day of the solar eclipse. Moonrise advances from 9:46 p.m. to 1:06 a.m. between the 10th and 16th.
The brightest planet, Venus, rises in the east-northeast by 3:30 a.m., and it is 33 degrees high in the east at sunrise.
The International Space Station will cross the sky high over Los Angeles on the same evening that the Perseid meteors peak, August 12. The ISS will cross the sky from the northwest to the southeast between 8:44 and 8:49 p.m. It will greatly outshine Jupiter when it is at its highest point, 75 degrees above the northeast horizon, at 8:47 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 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.