Our Friendly Skies

July 31, 2010|By ROD MARTIN / Brish Planetarium and ANDY SMETZER / Tristate Astronomers

Visible Evening Planets

VENUS is bright in the west after sunset.

MARS is in the west.

SATURN is in the west.

Visible Morning Planets

JUPITER is bright in the south.

For more information about the visible evening planets and nighttime sky, download the planetarium's podcast "Skylights" from

Solar system

August explodes with a beautiful grouping of planets the first half of the month. Grab your binoculars and follow these wanderers.

The costellation Virgo has the bright group. The three planets are easy to identify low in the west. Venus is the brightest by about 100 times. Nearby Mars is orange-red. Saturn is similar brightness to Mars but cream colored. For the first half of the month, the three are within five degrees of each other and visible in the same binocular field of view. You can follow their motions as they revolve around the sun, too.


Mercury tries to join the party early in August, but it never gets as high as the others and stays farther west. It's greatest elongation is on Aug. 7.

Jupiter is the bright morning planet visible high in the south most of the month. It actually rises around the end of evening twilight by the end of the month, as it approaches its September opposition. Then it will be visible most of the night. It is brighter than anything except the sun, moon, and Venus.

A summer highlight is always the Perseid meteor shower. This reliable shower should be easy to see since it's right after the new moon. Its peak is the night of Aug. 12 into the morning of Aug. 13. Meteors from this shower can be seen from July 23 to Aug. 22. Up to 60 meteors per hour may be seen.

Public meteor shower observation

The TriState Astronomers will be hosting a free public meteor shower observing event at the Antietam National Battlefield Vistor Center, Sharpsburg, from 9 p.m. Aug. 12 through the morning hours of Aug. 13. There will be no telescope observing; just bring blankets and/or lawn chairs to observe this event.

This year should be a good one for the Perseids, since their peak will near a new moon, providing dark skies for observers.

There will be no public restrooms and the event will be cancelled if the sky is cloudy. For more information, call Dan at 301-988-9828.

Sun and moon

On Aug. 1, the sun rises at 6:10 a.m. and sets at 8:23 p.m., for 14 hours and 13 minutes of daylight. By Aug. 31, the sun rises at 6:38 a.m. and sets at 7:43 p.m., for 13 hours and 5 minutes of daylight.

The sun enters the astronomical boundaries of Leo the Lion from the Cancer the Crab on Aug. 10.

The moon reaches last quarter on Aug. 3, new on Aug. 9, first quarter on Aug. 16 and full on Aug. 24.

Brish Planetarium and events

Public planetarium programs have concluded for the current school year. They will resume in October with the "Universe of Dr. Einstein."

The planetarium is located at the Central Offices of the Washington County Public Schools on Commonwealth Avenue off Frederick Street in Hagerstown. The planetarium's website is

For more information about schedules and special events, go to

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