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September 22, 2011

Perseids meteor shower peaked Aug 13, still visible tonight!

“The Perseids meteor shower radiate[s] out from the constellation Perseus, which is located in the eastern horizon during August,” Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration acting administrator Nathaniel Servando said in an astronomical diary.

But Servando said the bright moonlight may interfere with the view of fainter meteors. “Meteors are easiest to see if there is no moonlight and light pollution at all.” He added August is one of the most popular times of the year to observe meteor showers.

Constellations visible 
Servando also said constellations like Leo, Ursa Major, Virgo, Libra, Scorpius, and Sagittarius are most prominent during August.

At the northwestern horizon, the constellation of Leo, the Lion, is about 30 degrees from the horizon. “In this constellation, an asterism known as the inverted Question Mark, or sometimes known as the scythe, can be figured out,” Servando said.

He elaborated that such an asterism represents the head of the lion.
Visible in the north are the constellations of Ursa Major, the Great Polar Bear, and Ursa Minor, the Small Polar Bear.

Another asterism can be found along the constellation of Ursa Major, the well-known Big Dipper.

“Navigators at night use the Big Dipper to locate the North Star Polaris. By using the distance between the two stars Dubhe and Merak, on the tip of the ladle just measure five times the distance downward to determine the position of the North Star, Polaris,” Servando said.

Facing the south, zodiac constellations can be found, including the constellation of Virgo on the southwestern horizon.

Libra, the Scale, Scorpius, the Scorpion, and Sagittarius, the Archer, follow Virgo on the southeastern horizon, respectively.

Even the Southern Cross (Crux), the smallest constellation in terms of area, can be seen, and points out the South Pole. On its left are Alpha Centauri and Beta Centauri.

“Using a telescope, Alpha Centauri will reveal another companion star, called Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to Earth, which is only 4.3 light years away,” Servando said.

Planets visible
Servando said Mercury can be observed during the first week of August, in the western horizon after sunset.
It will reappear from sky view in the eastern horizon, 30 minutes before sunrise during the last week of August.
But Venus will be lost from view in the sky during August, as it will pass behind the Sun as viewed from the Earth on Aug. 16. Venus will become visible again in October.

Mars will be visible in the early morning hours throughout August, easily identified by its reddish color.
Jupiter will be visible in the morning sky throughout the month and will lie among the background stars of the constellation Aries, the Ram.

“With the aid of modest-sized telescopes, major atmospheric features such as the two dark equatorial belts will be seen. Jupiter will be easy to identify with the naked eye because of its brightness and does not twinkle like stars,” Servando said.

Saturn can also be observed in the evening sky throughout the month above the western horizon, among the background stars of the constellation Virgo, the Maiden.

It will appear as a yellowish brown shining at magnitude +1.29, and can be seen with a simple pair of binoculars.
Larger telescopes can bring out its other spectacular features — such as its satellite, Titan and the Cassini Division in its rings.

Uranus and Neptune will appear as blue spots in the sky if viewed from a telescope.

“Both planets will be observed from late in the evening until dawn throughout the month. Uranus will be glowing at a magnitude of +5.78 while Neptune will be dimmer at magnitude +7.83. The planets will lie among the background stars of the constellation Pisces, the Fish, and Aquarius, the Water Bearer, respectively,” Servando said. — JE, GMA News

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