Venus to appear ‘like a white lantern’ on the early morning horizon this month

Neil Norman is an astronomer from Hadleigh Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Neil Norman is an astronomer from Hadleigh Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

We are now approaching autumn and the skies are now getting darker at last, writes astronomer Neil Norman,of Hadleigh.

With this comes the chance to get out earlier and see the summer sky constellations begin to change and the autumnal ones come into view.

Venus is blazing away in the pre-dawn skies and reaches greatest elongation from the sun on August 13.

You cannot fail to notice it if you are out early in the morning as it almost resembles a white lantern above the horizon.

Jupiter and Saturn are visible all night and are located close to each other in the southern sky. Jupiter is a very bright yellow colour and with a pair of binoculars you will be able to make out and follow the four principle moons as they rotate around their host.

Saturn is located to the lower left of Jupiter but is easily seen. It is a coffee colour and with binoculars you can tell that something is amiss with the planet as it appears elongated. A small telescope will reveal the ring system around the planet that lies almost a billion miles away.

Mars blazes away now and reaches its closest point to the sun on August 3.

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It is rising earlier each night and is unmissable at 1am in the southern part of the sky. Though the planet is close to us at present only a larger aperture telescope will reveal any details upon its surface.

The Perseid meteors are on show this month, and peak activity occurs on the night/morning of August 12/13.

This shower is very strong and if the sky is clear on these nights you will not fail in seeing some shooting stars.

The meteors appear from the eastern direction of the sky and are the result of small pieces of debris burning up in the atmosphere as the Earth passes through a debris field left behind by a periodic comet named 109P/Swift-Tuttle.

The comet was last near Earth in 1992 and will not be back until the year 2160, but the dust it expelled from its previous apparitions are still floating through space and a good display is guaranteed every year.

It’s also a perfect time to have a BBQ before the show starts as darkness falls.

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