Welcome to Ontario Parks’ “Eyes in the Skies” series. This space (<– see what we did there?) will cover a wide range of astronomy topics with a focus on what can be seen from the pristine skies found in our provincial parks.
August is here with good weather, fewer mosquitoes and longer nights. All of July’s constellations and objects are still visible, but there are some interesting new things to see this month.
Here are our astronomical highlights for August 2023:
The sun continues its apparent drop in elevation as next month’s fall equinox (equal light and darkness) approaches.
For those of us who rely on daylight to paddle to that distant lakeside campsite or hike that last ridge before settling in for the night, knowing when the sun sets is important.
In August we see a big change in the amount of natural light. The sun sets around 8:55 p.m. at the beginning of the month, but at the end of the month it sets almost an hour earlier, at 8:05 p.m.
Due to the tree cover surrounding most campsites, the horizon will be blocked, meaning you will lose the sun about an hour early. If you travel around August 31, be sure to finish your hike or paddle before 7:00 p.m.
This may shorten our recreation time, but from an astronomical perspective, we gain almost two more hours of darkness to appreciate the night sky.
Sunrise and sunset times
|August 1||August 15th||August 31|
|Sunrise||6:07 a.m.||6:25 a.m.||6:44 a.m.|
|One||13:32||1:30 in the afternoon||13:26|
The moon has long captivated observers of all ages. The August lunar phases of the moon occur as follows:
The planets and a rare morning view of the solar system
The beautiful planet Saturn rises at 10:00 p.m. At the end of the month, it rises at 8:00 a.m. and Jupiter about two hours later.
Both are lovely to see among the stars in the background. Jupiter (with binoculars) will show its four largest moons in dark skies. Saturn (even with a small telescope) will show off its glorious rings.
Meteor showers and satellites
This year’s August Perseid meteor shower should be spectacular, as it occurs near the new moon and there is a chance to see up to 100 meteors per hour from dark skies.
This meteor shower originates from a recurring comet, Swift-Tuttle, which last passed by in 1995 and has an orbit of 133 years.
Observing meteorites, especially in the dark skies of our provincial parks, is one of the most fun ways to get started in astronomy.
You don’t need any special equipment other than your eyes!
An armchair, a sleeping bag and a companion are welcome to enjoy the show. If you take a look at our constellation maps, you can practice learning your constellations while observing meteors.
A meteor shower occurs when Earth enters the debris field of a comet that long ago passed around the sun.
These pieces of dust and sand, often no larger than your thumbnail, enter Earth’s atmosphere and burn up at high altitudes (see our post on meteor showers for more information).
Featured constellations: an archer, a dolphin and a goat.
In this month’s featured constellations, we talk about Sagittarius, Capricorn and Delfino.