This is the Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday August 29th and 30th.
The Sun sets at 7:39 PM; night falls at 9:15. Dawn breaks at 4:37 AM and ends with sunrise at 6:18.
Two pairs of bright planets illuminate the darkening sky. Venus and Jupiter are very low on the western horizon, and require an unobstructed view. The lucky observer sees Venus blazing at minus 4th magnitude, four degrees above the horizon, appearing 90 percent illuminated and setting at 8:29 PM. Jupiter appears at minus 1.7 magnitude two degrees below Venus. It sets at 8:24 PM.
The second planetary pair occupies the southwestern sky. Saturn glows at zero magnitude and appears about 25 degrees high. Red Planet Mars is actually brighter but smaller in our telescopes and 5 degrees to Saturn’s lower left. Note the red star Antares below Mars. All three set by 11:30 PM.
While evening plants were setting, Neptune was rising in Aquarius. It appears as an eighth magnitude blue-green dot near the brighter star Hydor, also called Lambda Aquarii. It remains up all night, but needs a detailed star chart to locate it amid similar looking stars. Neptune is best viewed at 1:10 AM. The same applies to Uranus in Pisces. It is brighter at 5.7 magnitude and appears slightly larger in our instruments. It, too, needs detailed charts to find it and is best viewed at 3:50 AM.
The waning 28 day-old Moon rises 4:25 AM Tuesday. It shines at minus 2.5 magnitude and appears about 4 percent illuminated, 13 degrees high in the East. Wednesday’s Moon rises at 5:28 AM and is 1 percent illuminated. This poses a challenge to find the skinny crescent in the brightening sky.
Ancient peoples saw the sky as the realm of the gods and told stories about their constellations. By midnight, all the constellations that make up the Andromeda story are visible. We previously mentioned Cassiopeia and Cepheus. Cassiopeia angered some gods and Ethiopia was subjected to severe calamities. An oracle told Cepheus that disasters would end if he chained Andromeda to a seaside rock to be eaten by the sea monster Cetus. Perseus was returning from a mission to kill the Medusa, a woman so hideous that her visage turned people to stone. One version of the myth has Perseus returning by his horse Pegasus. He hears Andromeda’s cry for help. The parents, nearby, promise her hand in marriage if he saves her. He kills Cetus and frees Andromeda. “W” shaped Cassiopeia and Cepheus, shaped like a stick drawing of a house, are visible overhead. Pegasus, the flying horse, is a Great Square high in the eastern sky, flying upside down; his neck begins at the lower right star of the square. Andromeda’s chains flow from the upper left star in the square and continues eastward. The famous Andromeda Galaxy lies above the upper chain and is visible to naked eyes in rural skies. Perseus appears to the east of Pegasus, resembling a stick drawing of a man with one long and one short leg. The brightest star in the short leg is Algol, the “Demon Star.” It represents the evil eye of the Medusa. Cetus lies beneath Pegasus and Pisces. It is a dim constellation low on the horizon for our latitude.