Each Monday I pick out the northern hemisphere’s celestial highlights (mid-northern latitudes) for the week ahead, but be sure to check my main feed for more in-depth articles on stargazing, astronomy, eclipses and more.
What To Watch For In The Night Sky This Week: August 9-15, 2021
This is a special week for stargazing. First up we have a couple of nights where a beautiful slim crescent Moon slips past bright planet Venus low in the west after dark.
Then comes the Perseid meteor shower, which is predicted to be spraying shooting stars at us in the very early hours of Thursday and Friday. This week also sees the first seasonal rise of Sirius, also known as the “Dog Star.”
Here’s everything you need to know about looking up this week:
Tuesday, August 10, 2021: A crescent Moon and Venus
Tonight brings a real treat. Look low to the west just after sunset and you’ll see a wondrous sight—a 5%-lit crescent Moon a mere 4° from the bright planet Venus.
As it gets darker you’ll likely also notice “Earthshine” illuminate the Moon’s dark limb—sunlight reflected from the Earth back on to the Moon.
To see it you’ll need an unobstructed horizon. A reasonably large park should do it as long as there aren’t many big trees or buildings in the vicinity.
It will look almost as good tomorrow night, too:
Tuesday, August 10, 2021: Cargo flight to the ISS
NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island will today, at 5:55 p.m. EDT, see a Northrop Grumman Antares rocket launch a Cygnus spacecraft on its 16th cargo delivery flight to the International Space Station. It will screen live on NASA TV and YouTube.
Experiments onboard include 3D printing in space using rock and soil like that found on the Moon, how slime molds’ behavior is affected by microgravity and a new spacecraft carbon dioxide removal technology that could help future explorers on the Moon and Mars breathe more easily.
Wednesday, August 11, 2021: the heliacal rising of Sirius
Just before sunrise today you’ll be able to look to the east-southeast and see the first appearance from mid-northern latitudes of Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky.
Today is known as its “heliacal rising.” It was once thought that the rise of Sirius explained the extra heat of summer, hence the phase “the dog days of summer.”
Thursday, August 12, 2021: Perseid meteor shower
The year’s best meteor shower strikes in the early hours of today when about 100 shooting stars could be visible in dark, moonless country skies. You’ll not see that many, but if you get under reasonably dark country skies you’ll likely see 15-20 or so in a couple of hours.
How? Look at the night sky and keep looking! Put that smartphone away … it will distract you and completely ruin your dark-adapted eyes. Be sure to look tomorrow night, too, because the actual peak is during the day, so which night is “best” is debatable and depends on your exact location.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.