The Active Sun?Solar activity is still at its peak, check the Sun daily for new sunspots (CAUTION: use solar filter-equipped binoculars or a telescope only!). Solar activity should be strong throughout 2012. Of course, specialized H-Alpha telescopes such as the Coronado models carried by Orion, are required to see flares and solar prominences in the Sun?s atmosphere.
The Perseid Meteor Shower?One of the best meteor showers of the year, the Perseids peaks after midnight the night of August 11-12. Get some lawn chairs, a clear view of the sky and gather your friends and family for a night of stargazing punctuated by beautiful fleeting meteors! The Perseids shower is best seen from dark sky locations.
Occultation of Venus by the Moon?On the afternoon of August 13, during the daytime, with a telescope you can see the Moon cover the planet Venus! This is a great chance to show others that not only is the moon visible in the daytime sky, but the planet Venus can be seen as well if you know where to look.
The Summer Milky Way?As soon as it gets dark on nights when the Moon isn?t visible (New Moon phase), you can see the grandest unaided eye sight in the night sky from a dark sky location -- our home galaxy, the Milky Way. Binoculars and telescopes can tease out dozens and dozens of star clusters, nebulas and planetary nebulas. From a dark sky location away from city lights, this is easy to see and majestic in scale, but you can?t see it near heavily populated areas due to light pollution; so plan a summer adventure to a national park or a favorite dark sky site to experience this "must-see" astronomical sight.
The Morning Sky?Before sunrise in the eastern sky this August, there is a grand gathering of planets. Venus and Jupiter pass through the Hyades Star Cluster and Mercury makes a great appearance low in the east from August 14-22. In darker skies you?ll also see the glittering Pleiades Star Cluster adding its sparkle to this celestial traffic jam.
A Planetary Gathering in the Western Sky?On August 20-22 Mars and Saturn form a triangle low in the southwest sky at dusk. During the evenings of August 20-22 the Moon will sweep past them forming a close diamond-shaped pattern on the night of August 21. Easily visible to the naked eye, if you have a clear view to the southwest, you?ll need a telescope to let you see planetary detail and the rings of Saturn.
The Grand Summer Nebulas?These excellent examples of gaseous nebulae are still well placed - See the star chart in Orion?s Resource Center to find out where you can track them down. The brightest are M16, the Star Queen Nebula; M17, the Swan Nebula; M20, the Trifid Nebula; and the brightest, M8, the Lagoon Nebula. All are visible in binoculars from dark locations. Use a small to moderate aperture telescope with the aid of an O-III eyepiece filter or SkyGlow filter to see them from more-suburban locations.
The Showcase Star Clusters of Summer?Even from the city, you can track down some of the brightest star clusters of the summer sky. The brightest and best include M13, M93, M11, M6 and M7. You can see these under good skies with a 60mm scope, but it will take something larger like a Starblast 4.5 or a 6" to 8" Dobsonian to reveal their true beauty.