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Mercury

Mercury starts the month heading towards superior conjunction which it reaches on August 8th. The planet is located on the far side of the Sun and remains unobservable from northern temperate latitudes throughout the month. Observers located at equatorial and southern hemisphere latitudes will be able to spot Mercury during the last week of August when it becomes visible as an evening object, low down above the western horizon just after sunset.

For example on August 23rd, Mercury shines at magnitude -0.6 and from latitude 35S (approx. equal to Sydney, Cape Town and Santiago) it will appear 7 degrees above the western horizon, 30 minutes after sunset. On the last day of the month it will have dimmed slightly to magnitude -0.3 but on the other hand 12 degrees above the same horizon.

Venus

For many months now Venus has been a superb dazzling morning object before sunrise. The planet remains visible towards the northeast during August but by months end rises just one hour before the Sun. At magnitude -3.9, Venus is unmistakable, a blazing beacon of light above the horizon.

On August 18, Venus passes only 0.2 degrees north of Jupiter (mag. -1.8). The pairing forms a wonderful sight in the pre-dawn sky for a few days before and after this. The brightness difference is noticeable, Venus appears about five times brighter than the much larger but more distant Jupiter. On August 23rd, the thin waning crescent Moon passes about 5 degrees south of Venus and Jupiter.

Mars

Mars remains an evening object this month as it continues its rapid south-easterly motion against the "fixed" background stars. At the start of the month the "Red planet" is located in Virgo, 8 degrees southeast of the constellation brightest star Spica (α Vir - mag. +1.0). On August 10th, Mars moves into Libra where it remains for the remainder of the month. Also currently located in Libra is Saturn and Mars will catch up and overtake the "Ringed planet" on August 27th. Both planets have the same brightness (mag. +0.6) but the colour contrast is striking - Mars a deep orange-red and Saturn an off white almost creamish colour.

As the month progresses, Mars fades slightly from magnitude +0.4 to +0.6 with its apparent size shrinking from 7.9 to 6.8 arc seconds. The planet sets about 2 hours after the Sun from northern temperate latitudes but from Southern Hemisphere latitudes it's visible for twice as long. On August 3rd, the first quarter Moon passes 2.2 degrees north of Mars.

Mars and Saturn during August 2014

Mars and Saturn during August 2014 - pdf format

Jupiter

Jupiter, magnitude -1.8, passed through solar conjunction at the end of last month. From about the middle of August it will reappear above the eastern horizon in the early morning sky, rising a few minutes earlier each subsequent day. The planet is currently located in the constellation of Cancer with an apparent size of about 32 arc seconds. From northern temperate latitudes, Jupiter rises more than 2.5 hours before the Sun, although considerably less from more southerly locations.

Although, the largest planet of our solar system is probably too low above the east-northeastern horizon for serious telescopic observation this month, it's still an impressive naked eye sight. As mentioned above, Venus passes only 0.2 degrees north of Jupiter on August 18th.

Saturn

Saturn is now again moving direct amongst the stars of Libra. The planet reached its second stationary point last month signaling the end of this year's opposition period. However, Saturn remains reasonably well placed for observation during August. By months end it sets about 2 hours after the Sun from northern temp latitudes and rather later from locations further south.

The planets brightness dims slightly from mag +0.5 to +0.6 as the month progresses with its apparent size reducing from 17.1 to 16.3 arc seconds. As already mentioned Mars is currently in the same area of sky and on August 27th, it will overtake and pass 4 degrees south of Saturn.

The first quarter Moon will passes 0.1 degrees south of Saturn on August 4th with an occultation visible from New Zealand and most of Australia (10:32 UT). Later in the month on August 31st, the waxing crescent Moon passes 0.4 degrees north of Saturn with an occultation visible from West Africa (18:59 UT).

Uranus

Uranus is an evening object, shining at magnitude +5.8 amongst the stars of Pisces. At the start of the month, the distant planet rises in the east before midnight and a little earlier each day as the month progresses. It then remains visible for the remainder of the night.

Uranus is positioned 15 degrees south, 20 degrees east of the centre of the "Great Square of Pegasus" and 2 degrees south of star ε Psc (mag. +4.3). The planet is bright enough to be easily spotted with binoculars or a small telescope. It's also visible to the naked eye but this is a challenging task, requiring dark skies.

A small telescope at high magnification will show the planet as a small green disk, obviously non-stellar (apparent diameter 3.6 arc seconds). However, even when viewed through the largest amateur scopes it's difficult to make out any surface details.

On August 14th, the waning gibbous Moon passes 1.2 degrees north of Uranus.

Uranus during August 2014

Uranus during August 2014 - pdf format

Neptune

Neptune (mag. +7.8), the most distant planet in the Solar System reaches opposition in Aquarius on August 29th and hence is visible all night long. At opposition the planet is positioned 28.963 AU (4333 million km or 2692 million miles) from Earth.

With a declination of almost -10 degrees, Neptune is currently better situated for observation for observers located in either the tropics or Southern Hemisphere than for those in the Northern Hemisphere.

The planet is located a couple of degrees northeast of Sigma (σ) Aqr (mag. +4.8) and about 30 degrees southwest of the Great Square of Pegasus. Although Neptune is a considerably sized planet it's too distant and hence too faint to be seen with the naked eye. However, it's visible with binoculars. A small to medium sized telescope at high magnifications will show the planet as a small bluish disk, although the surface appears devoid of details.

On August 12th, the full Moon passes 5 degrees north of Neptune.

Neptune during August 2014

Neptune during August 2014 - pdf format

Solar System Data Table August 2014

 DateRight AscensionDeclinationApparent MagnitudeApparent SizeIllum. (%)Distance from Earth (AU)Constellation
Sun5th Aug 201408h 59m 08.8s17d 06m 08.2s-26.731.5'1001.014Cancer
Sun15th Aug 201409h 37m 06.9s14d 12m 12.9s-26.731.6'1001.013Leo
Sun25th Aug 201410h 14m 12.9s10d 55m 39.3s-26.731.6'1001.011Leo
Mercury5th Aug 201408h 44m 14.7s19d 42m 28.1s-1.905.1"981.321Cancer
Mercury15th Aug 201410h 04m 51.2s13d 34m 53.5s-1.305.0"971.356Leo
Mercury25th Aug 201411h 12m 00.8s06d 07m 47.4s-0.505.1"891.308Leo
Venus5th Aug 201407h 30m 24.3s21d 54m 13.8s-3.810.7"931.562Gemini
Venus15th Aug 201408h 22m 02.0s19d 57m 39.5s-3.810.4"951.599Cancer
Venus25th Aug 201409h 12m 20.9s17d 03m 48.1s-3.910.2"961.632Cancer
Mars5th Aug 201414h 09m 59.0s-14d 15m 10.9s0.407.7"871.214Virgo
Mars15th Aug 201414h 32m 23.7s-16d 13m 53.7s0.507.3"871.275Libra
Mars25th Aug 201414h 56m 27.7s-18d 08m 20.7s0.607.0"871.334Libra
Jupiter5th Aug 201408h 26m 17.4s19d 37m 15.0s-1.831.4"1006.273Cancer
Jupiter15th Aug 201408h 35m 19.8s19d 06m 11.7s-1.831.6"1006.243Cancer
Jupiter25th Aug 201408h 44m 08.6s18d 34m 16.5s-1.831.8"1006.193Cancer
Saturn5th Aug 201414h 59m 14.1s-14d 41m 24.5s0.517.0"1009.798Libra
Saturn15th Aug 201415h 00m 28.4s-14d 49m 21.2s0.616.7"1009.964Libra
Saturn25th Aug 201415h 02m 19.0s-14d 59m 41.8s0.616.4"10010.128Libra
Uranus5th Aug 201401h 00m 50.7s05d 44m 44.1s5.803.6"10019.551Pisces
Uranus15th Aug 201401h 00m 17.7s05d 41m 02.6s5.803.6"10019.408Pisces
Uranus25th Aug 201400h 59m 28.8s05d 35m 43.9s5.803.7"10019.281Pisces
Neptune5th Aug 201422h 34m 35.2s-09d 46m 20.2s7.802.4"10029.046Aquarius
Neptune15th Aug 201422h 33m 37.9s-09d 52m 10.0s7.802.4"10028.991Aquarius
Neptune25th Aug 201422h 32m 37.0s-09d 58m 16.8s7.802.4"10028.965Aquarius