For three days, the trio will be lined up side-by-side … by side. Those who look south in the night sky from Aug. 9-11 will be able to see the moon in a nearly straight line with Saturn and Jupiter.
So, what does it mean when we say Jupiter is “bright” this month?
Jupiter comes out at dusk and sets in the middle of the night.
Here’s a more colorful picture of Jupiter from NASA’s Instagram:
Saturn is also really easy to see in the month of August, and it will be out for most of the night.
“They both come out at nightfall and are out till late night,” EarthSky.org reports. “Mercury appears in the east before sunrise.”
If you’re struggling to tell which planet is which, remember this: Jupiter is 10 times brighter than Saturn. In fact, it’s the fourth-brightest object in the sky after the sun, the moon and Venus. (Jupiter was also the first planet formed in our solar system, if you need a nifty fact for trivia night!)
Up close, Saturn looks different from Jupiter — namely, it has larger rings. Here’s Saturn, its rings and its moons in a picture from NASA that came straight from Voyager 1:
EarthSky.org says at nightfall and in the early evening during August, Jupiter will shine well to the west of Saturn.
In its tips for seeing Saturn, Space.com says the planet is highest in the sky from nightfall until 10:30 p.m. — but it’s not high above the horizon, especially for those viewing from northern latitudes.
Here’s an example of how the two planets appeared from Pune, India, in May. Jupiter is the large bright spot at the center, and Saturn is the standout spot to the left of and slightly below Jupiter.
However, visibility can depend. “You may find that Saturn appears excellent on milky white nights when everything else is too dimmed by haze to be worth observing at all,” the Space.com visibility guide says.
So how do you tell the planets apart from the stars? If you’re not using a stargazing app to check star and planet positions, the best way is to check for twinkling — planets don’t twinkle. That’s because the stars you see are a single point of light hitting one receptor in your eye. On the other hand, your eye sees multiple light rays coming from a planet. These are affected differently by the atmosphere and hit different receptors in your eye.
The alignment of Saturn, Jupiter and the moon is not the only astrological event to check out in August, according to this tweet from AccuWeather:
Mark your calendar for these 3 astronomy events in August:
Aug. 9-11: Jupiter, Moon Saturn to align
Aug 12-13: Peak of Perseid Meteor Shower
Late-Aug.: Orion returns to the night sky
— AccuWeatherAstronomy (@AccuAstronomy) July 31, 2019
You will also want to check out the peak of the Perseid meteor shower on Aug. 12-13, as well as watch the constellation Orion join the night sky at the end of August.
Fortunately, no special equipment is needed to see the Perseid meteor shower. Your best chance of seeing it will be in the Northern Hemisphere during the mornings, according to EarthSky.org.
The meteor shower has been happening since mid-July, but it will be especially visible this weekend.
Meanwhile, the Orion constellation is one of the most prominent ones in the sky. As Space.com explains, it contains two of the sky’s brightest stars, Betelgeuse and Rigel.
The name Orion comes from a hunter in Greek mythology and the constellation is said to resemble a man wearing a belt and sword, or “Orion’s belt.” (Some might also say the constellation resembles the shape of a bowtie.) Orion starts rising in the sky in June and will become visible to many in late November and early December, according to EarthSky.org.