August 1, 2017

 Night Sky: Upcoming Solar
Eclipse and Other Highlights for August


There will be a total eclipse of the sun on August 21.   It will be visible in a 70 mile-wide band that stretches from Oregon to South Carolina.  Here on Hatteras Island, we will have a partial eclipse. The moon will cover 89% of the sun.  The moon will start to block the sun at 1:30 p.m.  The peak of the eclipse will be at 2:51 p.m. and the event will end at 4:10 p.m.  If you want to see the total eclipse, you should plan on traveling to South Carolina or western North Carolina. If you plan on traveling to see the eclipse, get there early and plan on staying late. There are estimates that as many as 20 million people might drive to see this once-in-a-lifetime event.

If you, your family, or any of your friends intend to view the eclipse, you should purchase special sunglasses that have an ISO12312-2 certification.  Apparently, there are “solar viewers” being sold that are not in compliance with this standard!  That means using them to view the eclipse could result in severe damage to your eyes, even blindness!

The American Astronomical Society has verified that solar viewers and eclipse glasses from American Paper Optics, Baader Planetarium (AstroSolar Silver/Gold film only), Rainbow Symphony, Thousand Oaks Optical and TSE 17 comply with an ISO12312-2 certification. You can find most of these products on Amazon and they are pretty inexpensive!  So take the time to order a 5- or 10-pack today and protect your eyes!

You can get more details for viewing the event at

In other monthly astronomical events, Jupiter starts the month visible in the SW at dusk.  By the end of August,  it will start getting close to the western horizon and only be visible for about an hour.

Saturn will start the month in the SSE.  It will be visible in the evening skies throughout August.

Venus will be visible near the Eastern horizon in the early morning hours. Throughout the month, it will rise just around 4:00 a.m. 

Mercury will be visible near the Western horizon just after sundown for the first week of the month. 

Neptune will rise in the East just after 9:00 p.m. on August 1. 

Uranus will rise at 11:30 p.m.  Normally, I don’t recommend looking for it with the naked eye, but given the current state of emergency and reduction of light pollution, there is a chance you might spot it on a very clear night.

Pluto will be in the night skies for all of August too, but don’t expect to see it.

The Perseids Meteor shower will peak the night of August 11-12.  This meteor shower is known to have up to 100 shooting stars per hour.  It is also famous for its fireballs.  Best viewing will be between midnight and dawn.


This is M 27, the Dumbbell Nebula.  It is also known as the Apple Core Nebula.  It is about 1400 light years away and has a visual magnitude of +7.1.  Charles Messier discovered it in 1764.  In 1784, William Herschel thought the circular shape was similar to his recently discovered planet, Uranus, and dubbed M 27 a “Planetary Nebula,” creating a new class of deep sky objects. There are about 2,000 known Planetary Nebula. 

Moon Phases:

1st Quarter is the 29th
 Full Moon is the 7th
 3rd Quarter is the 14th
 New Moon is the 21st

(Gerry Lebing is a retired computer scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Washington, D.C.  He has visited Hatteras Island since the mid-1970s. He and his wife, Karen, have owned property here for several years and moved to their home in Waves full-time in 2013.  Astronomy is a subject that Gerry says he has always been interested in and one that he pursues seriously -- he's built an small observatory next to his house. You can send him questions about the night sky through e-mail, [email protected]g.)

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