August Is Loaded with Great Stargazing Events, Including the Year's Best Meteor Shower

Gas giants and the Perseid meteor shower headline the show in the sky this month.

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Photo by Ali Ihsan Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

July was a little slower for stargazing experiences, especially after the eclipse-heavy months that preceded it. 

August is going to be able to compete with any month. Sure, you can argue it's always up there simply because of the beautiful summer evenings for stargazing. But the real attraction this month is the showstopping Perseid meteor shower, arguably the best meteor shower of the year. You'll find that hitting its peak on the night of August 11. But there's much more than the Perseids taking place this month, including lots of opportunities to look out for Saturn and Jupiter.

Here are all the stargazing events you won't want to miss this month.

August 10-11: Venus and the Crescent Moon Get Together

In the western sky just after sunset on August 10, you'll spot the crescent moon about a palm's width held at arm's distance away from Venus, the brightest planet in the night sky. The following night, you'll see the moon close as well, but it's just a touch further away to the upper left of the planet, as seen above.

August 11-12: The Best Meteor Shower of the Year Arrives

The Perseids are one of two meteor showers that reliably put on a hell of a good show. That will definitely be the case in 2021, according to Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office.

The Perseids arrive with great weather and the potential to produce up to 100 meteors an hour. It's also a display that's rich in fireballs, which are meteors that burn brightly as they crash through Earth's atmosphere. Go out around 11 pm on August 11. That's when you'll start to see a good number of meteors streaking across the sky. "You'll also have good rates on the night of August 12," Cooke notes. "Personally, though, I'd go out on the night of August 11."

August 18: Mars and Mercury on a Collision Course

You'll want to be looking just after sunset and maybe even a touch before that to try to catch Mercury having a close pass with Mars. They'll be close enough that you can see them simultaneously through a telescope, per Space.com. (Though, be sure not to point binoculars or a telescope at the sun.) It'll be harder to see the further north you are, but you should have a good view, particularly in the southern US and further south.

August 20 - Jupiter at its Brightest

Jupiter will reach opposition on Friday, sitting opposite the sun form our perspective. It'll rise at sunset and set at sunrise. It's going to be at its brightest for 2021, according to Space.com. If you're fortunate enough to be looking at the gas giant through a telescope, you'll see the planet's largest Galilean moons eclipse each other and cast shadows on the planet's bands throughout August.

August 21: Jupiter, Saturn, and the Moon Throw a Party

"August is perhaps the best time this year to enjoy viewing Jupiter and Saturn," the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) notes in its monthly What's Up video. The night after Jupiter hits opposition, it'll still be quite bright. That's good news because you'll want to go take a look tonight. The moon will be sitting just below Jupiter and Saturn in the southeastern sky just after sunset. The three celestial objects will be out for a long time tonight, but they'll be in their tightest formation early in the evening. It ought to be a great night to snap a photo of the trio because Saturn hit opposition earlier in the month and will also be quite bright. 
 

August 22: Seasonal Blue Moon

Most seasons contain three full moons. About once every two-and-a-half to three years a season will contain four full moons, according to the JPL. The third of those four full moons is known as a blue moon. The full moon that arrives on August 22 is the third of those four. So, we're getting a blue moon in August. It's not actually going to be blue or look much different than your average full moon, though.

All Month: Go See Jupiter and Saturn

With both gas giants hitting opposition in August, it's a great month to view them both. They'll be relatively close together, shining brightly in the southeast sky after sunset. They'll hang out throughout most of the night all month, reaching their highest point in the sky around midnight. 

Ready to go stargazing?

Here are all the best stargazing events that you can get out and see this month or you could stay in a stream the northern lights from home. If you're just getting started, check out our guide to astronomy for beginners or easy stargazing road trips from big US cities

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Dustin Nelson is a Senior Staff Writer at Thrillist. Follow Dustin Nelson on Twitter.