Are you ready yet? The total solar eclipse is less than one week away. August 21 next Monday afternoon ! Our location in Sint Maarten is set to have a partial solar eclipse, with 84% coverage of the sun by the moon. It will begin at 2:18pm and last until 4:49pm. You must wear protection for your eyes to look at it, so get ready now and order some paper glasses from your favourite online retailer. These inexpensive glasses will save your eyesight, and should be available on the island in time for the eclipse – more on that later.
By the way, we couldn’t see it here, but Europe and Asia witnessed a partial lunar eclipse last weekend, so I included a lovely photo taken by Max Shannon from that celestial event!
Sun rises at 5:53am
Sun sets at 6:44pm
Moon phase: 3rd quarter, waning
Moon sets Saturday at 11:40pm
Moon rises Sunday at 11:00am
This weekend, witness the peak nights of the 2017 Perseid Meteor Shower. Watch from late evening until dawn on both nights. The greatest number of meteors typically falls in the hours just before dawn; however, some devotees of the Perseids tell us that the early evening hours hold a greater chance of seeing an “earth-grazer” meteor – one with a long bright tail! That would be an amazing sight!
The Perseids, so named because the “falling stars” appear to emanate from the constellation of Perseus, typically peak with 50 or more meteors per hour! That rate might not be so likely this weekend due to the brightness of the moon. However, it’s still going to be good, that is, if the clouds don’t get in the way.
Even with the waning gibbous moon lighting up the sky after midnight, the Perseids are still worth watching. A good percentage of these meteors should be bright enough to overcome the glare of the moon’s light.
It’s possible to see and photograph bright meteors in moonlight, and, according to NASA’s Meteoroid Office, the Perseids have more fireballs than any other major shower.
By the way, you don’t need to look at Perseus to see the Perseids; they streak across the sky, so just keep looking up and around to see the shooting stars! But if you’re curious, Perseus rises just after midnight, in the Northeast. If you recognize Cassiopeia, the sideways “W” – just look to the lower right of the bottom star in the “W.”
While you’re out looking for meteors, you will surely have plenty of star gazing time on your hands. In the 11th hour, look directly overhead for Cygnus the Swan and Aquila the Eagle. About that time, the great Square of Pegasus will be rising in the east.
Later, as the hours progress towards pre-dawn, look east for our friends Orion, Taurus and the Pleiades. These familiar patterns are quite close to Perseus, which looks like an upside down “Y.”
Planets this weekend
The evening sky will glow with the light of Jupiter in the west-southwest. Jupiter sits this weekend amid the stars of the constellation Virgo. More to the south, Saturn adorns the area of the constellation Scorpius.
The pre-dawn sky offers the glorious planet Venus in the east, hanging just between the twins’ legs in the constellation of Gemini. Mars is hidden in the glare of the sun.
Thank you for keeping up with the Night Sky articles. If you are out later on in the week, each star rises about four minutes earlier each day than written here, and the moon rises 50 minutes later. Night Sky is researched and compiled by Lisa Davis-Burnett. Earthsky.org is a key resource for information and images. Questions or comments? Email firstname.lastname@example.org