August 2016 Planets

In the Western Sky


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Jupiter, Mercury and Venus can be found in the low, western, evening sky.

Jupiter: Named  after the king of the Roman gods, Jupiter is the fifth planet from the sun. Jupiter is a gas giant, has faint rings, and is orbited by 67 known moons. The four largest moons, also called the Galilean moons, Ganymede, Callisto, Io and Europa, can be seen through a 25 power telescope, in certain lights (pictured left).

Venus: The second planet from the sun will be briefly visible immediately after the sunset. Venus is  low in the sky and often hard to see in the sunset glow. However, it  will come into a very close planetary conjunction with Jupiter on August 27th. Venus and Mercury will be very close together all month, but will be closest on August 19th.

Venus, Photo Credit: Gemini Brett

Venus is named after the Roman goddess of love. Venus and the Earth are very similar in mass and are often referred to as sister planets. Although Mercury is closest to the sun, Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system, with a surface temperature of up to 471® Celsius.

Mercury:  Mercury is the smallest planet in our solar system and will also be visible low in the August sky. Unlike Venus, Mercury will be visible after the sun sets and will look like a star in the night sky. Mercury will be in a quasi-conjunction with Jupiter on August 19.

Mercury is named after the Roman messenger to the gods. Both Mercury and Venus are classified as rocky midget planets.

In the Southwestern Sky

Saturn and Mars can be found close to the moon and the constellation Scorpius, in the

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southwestern night sky.

Saturn: Saturn is the sixth planet from the sun. Like Jupiter, Saturn is a gas giant, with 62 known and named moons. It’s largest moon, Titan, is almost as large as the planet Mars. Saturn is best known for its beautiful and very thick rings, which can be seen through a 25 power telescope.

Mars: To the naked eye, Mars has a red tint, because of the planet’s rusty red color, caused by iron in its surface rusting. Like Venus and Mercury, Mars is categorized as one of the rocky midget planets and is the fourth planet from the sun.

Mars is named after the Roman god of war and is sometimes referred to as “The Red Planet.”

Photo Credit: Mikhail Chubarets 

For more information, check out EarthSky.

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