Skip to main content

NASA’s skywatching tips for August include a famous meteor shower

What's Up: August 2023 Skywatching Tips from NASA

NASA has just released its monthly update on what to look out for in the skies over the next few weeks, with Saturn, the Perseid meteors, and a “super blue moon” all featuring.


With Venus and Mars having slipped from view for the time being, we can turn our gaze toward Saturn instead. The second planet in our solar system reaches opposition this month, meaning it’s directly opposite the sun as seen from Earth. It’ll be appearing just after sunset and will remain visible until dawn, giving us plenty of time to check it out. On the morning of August 3, Saturn will be viewable right beside the moon.

If you’re having trouble pinpointing Saturn, then try using one of these astronomy apps.

Perseid meteors

This time of year offers a great chance to see one of the best-known meteor showers, the Perseids.

“The meteors are bits of dust — most no larger than sand grains — that originate from comet Swift-Tuttle,” NASA explains. As Earth sweeps through the comet’s debris trail, the particles burn up in the atmosphere, resulting in the annual shower.

The peak night for the Perseids shower is August 12/13, though a few days before and after will also offer a good chance to see the blazes of light streaking across the night sky (clear skies permitting, of course).

The best time to view the meteor shower is between midnight and dawn, with meteor activity expected to be at its greatest in the hour before dawn.


You’ll be hearing a lot about the moon in August, as the month starts and finishes with a full moon, something that only happens once every few years.

“A second full moon in a single calendar month is commonly called a ‘blue moon,’” NASA says. “They happen every two-to-three years because the moon’s monthly cycle is just a bit shorter than the average length of a month. So eventually a full moon will happen at the beginning of a month, with enough days left for a complete lunar cycle. When that happens, we get a blue moon.”

This month’s blue moon, on August 30, is also a supermoon. The agency explains: “The moon’s orbit isn’t a perfect circle, so sometimes it’s a little farther away from Earth and sometimes closer. At its closest point, called perigee, it’s 14% closer than at its farthest. About three-to-four times a year, the full moon phase happens to coincide with the moon reaching perigee, and we call that event a supermoon.” It notes that although it “technically appears a little bit bigger (and a tad brighter) than the average full moon, the difference is not super noticeable to the eye.”

The combination of these two special full moons results in what’s known as a “super blue moon,” a phenomenon that takes place only about once every 10 years on average, though the time between occurrences can vary from two months to two decades or more.

“So enjoy this month’s two full moons, and while the second one won’t appear super-sized, or any bluer than usual, now you know what makes it special,” NASA says.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
Venus, Jupiter, and Ceres feature in NASA’s skywatching tips for March
how to photograph perseid meteor shower night sky with

NASA has just shared its monthly skywatching tips for March, helping us to better understand exactly what we’re looking at when we gaze upward toward a sea of celestial bodies -- provided it isn’t cloudy, that is.
Venus and Jupiter
At the start of this month, Venus and Jupiter appear close together in the night sky, and you can spot both with the naked eye. But as the days go by, the distance between the two planets will open up, with Venus climbing higher and Jupiter gradually heading in the opposite direction.

Jupiter will drop to such an extent that it’ll vanish from sight in the coming weeks. But in May it will return -- in the pre-dawn sky -- along with Saturn.
Moon and Venus
In its monthly update, NASA notes that on March 23 and 24, during the first couple of hours after sunset, the moon will be visible as a slim crescent close to Venus. On March 23 it appears just below the moon, while the very next night it’ll be just above. The following night, on March 25, the moon will its upward trajectory as viewed from Earth, appearing beside the brilliant Pleiades star cluster that evening.
With this month seeing crop planting and harvesting activities in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, respectively, NASA suggests the coming weeks as “a fitting time to try and spot the planet named for a mythical goddess of agriculture, grains, and fertile lands. (In addition to being the origin of the word ‘cereal.’)”

Read more
Check out NASA’s skywatching tips for February
Open star clusters many light years from Earth.

February is just about upon us and so it's time for NASA to once again share its suggestions on what to look out for in the skies in the coming weeks.
Celestial pairings
First up, Jupiter and Venus will appear to converge in the night sky during the coming weeks. They’re easy to spot thanks to their bright appearance, but if you have trouble identifying them, just use one of the many excellent astronomy apps available for Android and iPhone.

Another pairing occurs toward the end of the month when the moon and Mars appear to come very close, high in the southwest after sunset.
Constellation Auriga
NASA says February is a great month to pick out the constellation Auriga.

Read more
Observe a comet, and other skywatching tips for January
A meteor shower.

What's Up: January 2023 Skywatching Tips from NASA

NASA is back with its monthly preview of what to look out for in the night sky.

Read more