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Party with the Planets in August
What's Up: Brought to you by Jane Houston Jones

Look on the western horizon shortly after sunset to see the crescent moon and Saturn on Aug. 3 and 4.

Why not celebrate the Year of the Solar System while following the upcoming launch of the Juno spacecraft on August 5 by staying up late to see Jupiter rising in the Eastern sky after midnight? From the launch site at Kennedy Space Center, Jupiter will appear to rise on the horizon of the Atlantic Ocean, weather permitting! By dawn it will be nearly overhead -the brightest object in the sky! You'll need binoculars to see the four moons: Ganymede, Callisto, Europa and Io.

Starchart showing Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune and Asteroid Vesta
Jupiter rises on the eastern horizon at about 12:30 a.m. Spot Uranus, Neptune and Asteroid Vesta with binoculars.

And speaking of Dawn, you can spot Vesta this month too! The Dawn spacecraft achieved orbit around the asteroid Vesta on July 16, and Vesta reaches opposition on Aug. 5, when it shines at its brightest. It's the brightest asteroid and the only one to see with the unaided eye! You will need to know your way around the constellations to see Vesta, but with a pair of steady binoculars you should be able to catch a glimpse of it. Find both Uranus and Neptune between Jupiter and Vesta.

If late-night planet partying is not your thing, you won't want to miss the crescent moon and Saturn right after sunset. Saturn glows above the moon on Aug. 3, and to the left on Aug. 4. They will set a few hours after sunset.

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About: Jane Houston Jones
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Jane is an astronomer, NASA science podcast developer, writer, educational and outreach artisan and social media enthusiast. She and her husband have an asteroid (22338 Janemojo) named after them.
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Last Updated: 27 Jul 2011