Sky at a Glance 2022 August 20 – 27

Photo showing the northern sky and constellations in autumn.

Photo showing the early morning arrangement of the Moon and planets during the 3rd week of August, 2022.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2022 August 20 – 27
~by Curt Nason

The signs of autumn appear in the sky before they become readily apparent terrestrially. As darkness settles the great mama bear, Ursa Major, scampers across the northern horizon in search of food and lodging for winter. If you live in a rural area with an excellent view to the north you might even catch a glimpse of Lynx running ahead of the bear, and consider yourself fortunate if you do. The thicker layer of atmosphere at low altitudes reduces the brightness of starlight, a phenomenon called extinction. The lynx may become extinct for a few hours.

The bowl of the Little Dipper (Ursa Minor) is upside down in early evening, pouring out its contents to fill the Big Dipper below, at the rear of Ursa Major. This scenario is at odds with Greek mythology, for the bears were cursed to eternal thirst by the goddess Hera in revenge for an indiscretion of her husband, Zeus. She placed the bears in a position where they never reach the horizon for a drink. Perhaps Zeus placed dippers of water inside the bears so that they could share water and survive. Someone has to make these stories up.

To the east Pegasus is already quite high after twilight, with its signature square asterism tilted as a diamond for the imminent baseball pennant stretch. Perseus stands above the northeast horizon below his in-laws, W-shaped Cassiopeia and house-shaped Cepheus, while their daughter Andromeda leads him toward the flying horse. There is much to see in this area with binoculars but start with the Double Cluster of stars between Perseus and Cassiopeia, and the Andromeda Galaxy (M31).

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 6:24 am and sunset will occur at 8:19 pm, giving 13 hours, 55 minutes of daylight (6:31 am and 8:22 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 6:33 am and set at 8:06 pm, giving 13 hours, 33 minutes of daylight (6:39 am and 8:10 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is just past third quarter this weekend and it is new next Saturday. Early risers can watch it over the week around 5:30 am as it passes through the bright stars of the Winter Circlet, enhanced with Mars and the Pleiades above Aldebaran, and Venus above the east-northeastern horizon. Saturn is now rising before sunset with Jupiter joining it before 10 pm. Mercury’s low altitude makes it a challenge to detect even with binoculars, setting 45 – 50 minutes after sundown, but this week is a good time to try as it reaches greatest elongation from the Sun next Saturday.

On Sunday evening at 8 pm, tune in to the Sunday Night Astronomy Show via the Facebook page or YouTube channel of Astronomy by the Bay.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

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