Fun astronomy facts to impress your friends with!

August 2016

1st – Pluto was first discovered by Clyde Tombaugh on February 18, 1930.  James Christy discovered Pluto’s moon Charon in 1978.

2nd – Looking to the southeast around 10 o’clock tonight you will see 3 stars that form a triangle. The Summer Triangle is 1 of 4 seasonal shapes you can see throughout the year!

3rd – Looking to the south around 9 o’clock tonight you will see Saturn above the star Antares. Look to the right of Saturn and you will see Mars.

4th – Looking to the west around 8:30 tonight you will see the waxing crescent Moon. Look just to the right of the Moon and you may see Mercury.

5th – Public Telescope viewing will be held the James S. McDonnell Planetarium tonight with the St. Louis Astronomical Society. For more information visit www.slsc.org.

6th – The Mars Curiosity rover landed on this date in 2012 at 12:32 p.m. CDT. You can learn more about the rover and its discoveries at http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/.

7th – Pluto resides in a belt of icy comet-like bodies that orbit the Sun known as the Kuiper Belt. The fact that Pluto resides in this belt and doesn’t clear its orbit of objects is the reason it became a Dwarf Planet in 2006.

8th – Looking to the southwest around 9 o’clock tonight you will see the waxing crescent moon above the bright blue-white star Spica. This star is part of the constellation Virgo the Maiden. 

9th –We now experience the Dog Days of summer. Sirius, the Dog Star, rises just before the Sun. Ancient Greek observers thought Sirius, the brightest star of the night sky, added heat to the day with the Sun!

10th – Looking to the southwest around 10 o’clock tomorrow night you will see the Moon. Look below the Moon to see Mars and to the left of Mars to see the star Antares. Look above Antares to see Saturn!

11th – Tomorrow morning is the peak of the Perseid meteor shower. Looking to the northeast around midnight and into the morning you will see the constellation Perseus and the meteors! To see more meteors get far from city lights.

12th – It takes Pluto 248 Earth years to orbit the Sun 1 time.  Pluto has yet to complete 1 orbit around the Sun since its discovery in 1930!

13th – Tonight you may see all 5 naked eye planets! Look to the west about 8:30 tonight to see Venus to the right of Mercury and Jupiter above Mercury. Looking to the south you will see Saturn above Mars!

14th – Earth takes about 365 days to orbit the Sun. It takes the Sun about 225 to 250 million years to orbit the center of the Milky Way galaxy!

15th – The International Astronomical Union has classified Pluto as a dwarf planet and a Plutoid. A Plutoid is any dwarf planet found outside the orbit of Neptune.

16th – Looking to the south around 10 o’clock tonight you will see a group of stars that look like a teapot. This group of stars is part of the constellation Sagittarius the Archer.

17th – The Hubble Space Telescope discovered 4 of Pluto’s moons.  In 2005 the moons Nix and Hydra were discovered. Two more moons were found in 2011 and 2012.

18th – Every full moon has a name. Tonight’s full moon is called the Full Sturgeon Moon because this type of fish is most easily caught in the great lakes at this time of year. 

19th – Astronomer Milton Humason was born on this date in 1891.  He assisted Missouri native Edwin Hubble at Mt. Wilson by studying the red shift of nebulae.

20th – On this date in 1977 the Voyager 2 spacecraft was launched aboard a Titan IIIE-Centaur rocket. This robotic spacecraft studied the planets of the outer solar system.

21st – Pluto lies about 4 billion miles away from the Sun or is about 39 times the distance of Earth from the Sun.  Light from the Sun takes about 5 and ½ hours to reach Pluto!

22nd – Pluto is 1 among 5 dwarf planets. The dwarf planet Ceres is located in our asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. 

23rd – Looking to the southwest around 9 o’clock tonight you will see Saturn above Mars. Mars is just above the star Antares and will slowly move eastward from this star each night this month.

24th – On this date in 2006 the International Astronomical Union voted on a new definition for a planet. As a result Pluto was reclassified. This year is the 10th anniversary of Pluto as a Dwarf Planet! 

25th – Looking to the southeast around 5 o’clock tomorrow morning and you will see the waning crescent Moon just above the constellation Orion the Hunter.

26th – Looking to the south around 9 o’clock tonight and you will see a group of stars that looks like the letter “J”. This is the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion.

27th – Don’t be fooled by the Mars hoax! Every August an email circulates saying Mars will appear as big as the Moon in the sky. Mars will only appear as a point of light in the sky from Earth.

28th – Looking to the west around 8 o’clock you will see Jupiter just to the right of bright planet Venus! Jupiter is so large you could fit 11 planets Venus sized across its diameter! 

29th – The stars tell us that fall will soon be here. Looking to the east around 9 o’clock tonight you will see 4 stars that form the Great Square of Pegasus which is a fall asterism. 

30th – The days are getting shorter as we head towards fall. Today the Sun will set at 7:33 p.m. This is 48 minutes earlier than when the Sun set on June 20th, the first day of summer. 

31st – Looking to the northeast around 10 o’clock you will see a group of stars that look like the letter “W”. This is the constellation Cassiopeia the Queen.