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NASA reveals the best night-sky treats viewable in August

NASA is back again with its monthly rundown of skywatching treats.

Taking center stage in August is the Perseid meteor shower, an annual event that’s set to peak in the middle of this month.

What's Up: August 2021 Skywatching Tips from NASA

The shower features so-called “shooting stars” that streak brightly across the night sky, created in this case by tiny fragments from the debris stream of Comet Swift-Tuttle burning up in Earth’s atmosphere.

“Although Perseids can be seen from mid-July through late August, the most likely time to see any is a couple of days on either side of the peak,” NASA explains. “This year the peak falls on the night of [Wednesday] August 11th, and into the pre-dawn hours of August 12th.” The space agency describes this period as “prime time for the Perseids,” adding that under suitably dark skies you may be able to spot as many as one meteor per minute.

NASA’s video at the top of this page offers several tips on how best to catch the Perseid meteor shower. You can also check out this Digital Trends article offering more detailed suggestions on how best to view it.

It’s worth adding that if for whatever reason you can’t get out to view the meteors, or you’re stuck in a location with extreme light pollution that prevents a decent view of the night sky, then you could do the next best thing and visit NASA’s livestream (more details here) of the Perseids overnight on Wednesday, August 11.

August is also a good month for spotting Jupiter and Saturn — and despite their vast distance from Earth, you’ll be able to spot both, or at least the sunlight that they reflect, with the naked eye.

Jupiter and Saturn in the night sky.

NASA says August is “perhaps the best time this year to enjoy viewing Jupiter and Saturn, as both planets reach opposition this month,” the term used for when a planet is on the same side of the solar system as Earth.

You’ll be able to spot Jupiter and Saturn from sunset to sunrise, with the planets reaching their highest point in the sky around midnight. Jupiter is easier to spot because it’s brighter. Once you’ve located it, you should be able to see Saturn a short distance away. To make it easy, fire up one of these astronomy apps, some of which use augmented reality to show you precisely what you’re looking at in the night sky.

Before you peer up to identify Jupiter, why not check out this recently released flyby video of the planet and one of its moons, captured by NASA’s Juno satellite.

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Trevor Mogg
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Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
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