August promises to be a good month for skywatchers, who can enjoy a solar eclipse, a lunar eclipse, and the Perseid meteor shower. With some advance preparation and clear skies, serious skywatchers should be able to get some impressive photography and make some memories with friends and family.
Solar eclipses and lunar eclipses tend to occur in pairs. In this case, Africa, Asia and Africa will get the chance to view a partial lunar eclipse on the night of August 7 through 8. The eclipse will begin at 15:50 Universal Time (UT) and reach the point of greatest eclipse at 18:20 UT with 25% of its angular diameter covered. The moon will emerge from the eclipse at 19:18 UT.
While reports that the Perseids will make the night sky as bright as the daytime are wildly inaccurate, this meteor shower is known for producing some excellent fireballs. This is especially a good thing because the moon will still be excessively bright during the meteor shower’s peak on August 12th. Although the peak can produce 80 to 100 meteors per hour, skywatchers will reasonably be able to see 40 to 50 meteors per hour.
The best viewing of the Perseid meteor shower will be in the northern hemisphere, although some skywatchers in the southern hemisphere may be able to spot meteors if they happen to be no farther south than the midsouthern latitudes. The best bet is to watch the meteor shower in the hours before dawn on the night of August 11-12 and after full dark on the night of August 12-13. Look for the Perseus constellation in the northeast to east.
August 21st will bring the solar eclipse that has been anticipated throughout the United States of America for the past several months. Known as the Great American Solar Eclipse, this event will see a 60-mile-wide path of totality that stretches from the West Coast in Oregon and Montana to the East Coast in North Carolina and South Carolina. As might be expected, hotels along the path of totality are completely booked, AirBnB venues are going for as much as $1,000 a night, and the traffic is expected to be insane. Emergency services and state parks are ramping up preparations for an explosion in the number of visitors. The Oregon State Park Foundation has reportedly cashed in by auctioning off campsites for an average of $2,000 a plot. So if you plan on observing the eclipse at any point along the path of totality, make sure you plan ahead to account for the fact that there can and will be insane-level crowds and bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Most importantly, don’t forget to bring lawn chairs, bug spray, drinks and snacks to your favorite skywatching site so that you and your friends can be comfortable while viewing these astronomical events throughout August. It’s going to be a busy month and you won’t want to miss a moment.