The Solar System In August 2017

Dates and times shown are NZST (UT + 12 hours) unless otherwise stated.

Sunrise, Sunset and Twilight Times in August

Times are for Wellington. They will vary by a few minutes elsewhere in NZ.

                    August  1  NZST                     August 31  NZST
       SUN: rise:   7.26am,  set:  5.28pm    rise:   6.45am,  set:  5.57pm
  Twilights     morning       evening            morning       evening
  Civil:    starts: 6.59am,  ends: 5.55pm    starts: 6.20am,  ends: 6.23pm
  Nautical: starts: 6.26am,  ends: 6.39pm    starts: 5.48am,  ends: 6.55pm
  Astro:    starts: 5.54am,  ends: 7.01pm    starts: 5.16am,  ends: 7.27pm

August Phases of the Moon (times NZST, as shown by GUIDE)

          Full moon:     August  8 at  6.11 am (Aug  7, 18:11 UT)
  Last quarter   August 15 at  1.15 pm (01:15 UT)
  New moon:      August 22 at  6.30 am (Aug 22, 18:30 UT)
  First quarter: August 29 at 12.13 pm (00:13 UT)

The Planets in August 2017

Mercury is visible in the early evening sky during the first part of August while Jupiter remains visible until later evening. Saturn is there all evening. In the morning Venus is bright before sunrise. Mars is not visible during the month.

Mercury starts August as a prominent early evening object, magnitude 0.4 setting well over two hours after the Sun. The planet begins the month in Leo some 6.5° above Regulus. During August it loops into Sextans but its elongation from the Sun rapidly declines and as it does the planet loses brightness. On the 27th Mercury is at inferior conjunction between the Earth and Sun.

Venus continues as an easily seen morning object although by the end of the month it rises less than 90 minutes before the Sun. During August it crosses Gemini and moves into Cancer on the 24th. On the morning of August 20 it will be joined by the crescent moon, some 8° to the right of the planet.

Mars remains too close to the Sun to observe during August, rising at best only 23 minutes before the Sun on the 31st.

Jupiter remains easily visible in the early evening sky, although by the end of August it will set mid evening. The planet is in Virgo below Regulus, their separation slowly decreasing. By the end of the month the two will be less than 4° apart. On the 25th the crescent moon will join them be some 6° below Jupiter.

Saturn is still well placed in the evening sky during August, not setting until after midnight. The planet is in Ophiuchus, its position changing very little during the month. It is stationary on the 25th. The moon will be less than 4° from Saturn on the 3rd of August. The two are close again on the 30th, this time 5° apart mid evening.

Outer Planets

Uranus rises close to midnight at the begining of August and two hours earlier by the end of the month. The planet remains in Pisces at magnitude 5.8. It is stationary on the 3rd.

Neptune rises at 8.15 pm on August 1 advancing to a few minutes afte sunset on the 31st. It is in Aquarius at magniutde 7.8.

Pluto, magnitude 14.4, remains in Sagittarius. It will be less than a dgeree from the magnitude 2.9 star, pi Sgr, by the end of the month.

Minor Planets

(1) Ceres is in the morning sky, rising about 4.00 am by the end of August. It is in Gemini ending the month just over 5° from Pollux.

(2) Pallas is a morning object in Eridanus brightening from magnitude 9.5 to 9.0 during August.

(4) Vesta is an 8th magnitude object in Leo during August. At the beginning of the month it will be some 6° to the right of Mercury in the early evening. By the end of August, Vesta will be setting an hour after the Sun.

(7) Iris is a morning object brightening from magnitude 9.2 to 8.6 during the month. Although starting August in Pisces it soon moves into Aries where it is 1° from Beta Ari, mag 2.6 on the 13th and less than 2° from Alhpa Ari at the end of the month.

(89) Julia, also a morning object, brightens from magniutde 9.7 to 9.1 during August. It is in Pisces early in the month, moving into Pegasus on the 12th.

(3122) Florence has a diameter of a few kilometres. Discovered in 1981 it is listed as a potential threat to Earth. According to GUIDE it will be some 7 million kilometres from the Earth at the end of August with magnitude 8.8. By then it should have an apparent motion over 20 arc-minutes per hour. Its path will see it pass some 16° from Fomalhaut on August 27 and less than 15° from Altair on September 2.

Brian Loader  
New Zealand