Enjoying EarthSky? Subscribe.

164,487 subscribers and counting ...

What’s the birthstone for August?

Peridot

Peridot

Happy birthday to our August friends! This is one of your birthstones, peridot. Your other birthstone is sardonyx.

Read about both of your birthstones….

Philae lander finds life ingredients on comet

A photograph of the surface of Comet 67P at Agilkia, Philae's intended landing site, from a height of just nine meters, taken with the ROLIS camera. Image credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/ROLIS/DLR

A photograph of the surface of Comet 67P at Agilkia, Philae’s intended landing site, from a height of just nine meters, taken with the ROLIS camera. Image credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/ROLIS/DLR

The data suggest that the organic compounds that eventually translated into organisms here on Earth existed in the early solar system, says scientist.

A third of Milky Way stars have changed orbit

This image shows two pairs of stars (marked as red and blue) in which each pair started in the same orbit, and then one star in the pair changed orbits. The star marked as red has completed its move into a new orbit, while the star marked in blue is still moving.  Image credit: Dana Berry/SkyWorks Digital, Inc.; SDSS collaboration)

This image shows two pairs of stars (marked as red and blue) in which each pair started in the same orbit, and then one star in the pair changed orbits. The star marked as red has completed its move into a new orbit, while the star marked in blue is still moving. Image credit: Dana Berry/SkyWorks Digital, Inc.; SDSS collaboration)

Astronomers have created a new map of the Milky Way that shows that about 30 percent of the stars have traveled a long way from where they were born.

Seeing the star with nearest rocky planet

Color image of star HD219134 by Efraín Morales of the Sociedad de Astronomía del Caribe

Color image of star HD219134 by Efraín Morales of the Sociedad de Astronomía del Caribe

A week ago, astronomers announced that NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope had confirmed the nearest known rocky exoplanet, orbiting the star HD219134, about 21 light-years away. Finder charts show the star in your night sky. Plus … a gif image showing the star’s proper motion, captured by an amateur astronomer.

US deserts wet until 8,200 years ago

Death Valley. Near Lone Pine, California. Photo credit: Loïc Lagarde

Death Valley. Near Lone Pine, California. Photo credit: Loïc Lagarde

New research suggests that around 8,200 years ago, the climate of the American West began transitioning from a lush landscape to the desert terrain we know today.

Every visible star is within Milky Way

Campfire under the Milky Way by Ben Coffman Photography.   Visit Ben Coffman on G+.

Campfire under the Milky Way by Ben Coffman Photography.

Every individual star that can be seen with the eye, in all parts of the sky, lies within the confines of our Milky Way galaxy. The galaxy is estimated to be some 100,000 light-years wide and only about 1,000 light-years thick. That’s why the starlit band of the Milky Way, which is visible in the evening this month, appears so well defined in our sky. Gazing into it, we’re really looking edgewise into the thin plane of our own galaxy.

Everything you need to know: Perseid meteor shower

View larger. | Meteor seen at Acadia National Park during the 2012 Perseid meteor shower.  Photo from EarthSky Facebook friend Jack Fusco Photography.  See more from Jack here.

Meteor seen at Acadia National Park during the 2012 Perseid shower. Photo from EarthSky Facebook friend Jack Fusco Photography.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the annual August Perseid meteor shower probably ranks as the all-time favorite meteor shower of the year. This major shower takes place during the lazy, hazy days of summer, when many families are on vacation. And what could be more luxurious than taking a siesta in the heat of the day and watching this summertime classic in the relative coolness of night? No matter where you live worldwide, the 2015 Perseid meteor shower will probably peak on the mornings of August 11, 12 and 13. Follow the links inside to learn more.

August 2015 guide to the five visible planets

Skywatcher, by Predrag Agatonovic.

Skywatcher, by Predrag Agatonovic.

Saturn rules this month! And that’s very unusual, because Saturn is the faintest and least noticeable of the bright planets. So why is Saturn top dog in August, 2015? Only because Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter – the other planets visible to the eye alone – all are hiding in the glare of evening or morning twilight throughout this month. Maybe they’re just not wanting to be upstaged by this August’s awesome Perseid meteor shower. Follow the links inside to learn more about August planets.

First of month’s two lunar perigees on August 2

The waning gibbous moon (55% illuminated as seen from Earth) on the morning of June 9, 2015 via EarthSky Facebook friend Deirdre Horan in Dublin, Ireland.

The waning gibbous moon (55% illuminated as seen from Earth) on the morning of June 9, 2015 via EarthSky Facebook friend Deirdre Horan in Dublin, Ireland.

In August 2015, the moon sweeps to perigee – the moon’s closest point to Earth in its orbit – for the first of two times this month on August 2 at 10:11 UTC. That is August 2 at 5:11 a.m. CDT. The moon at this perigee lies 362,139 kilometers (225,023 miles) from Earth.

The moon will again swing to perigee on August 30, though it’ll come closer to Earth this time around (358,290 kilometers). Less than one day before August’s second lunar perigee, the moon will turn full on August 29, to present the first of three full moon supermoons in 2015.

We list the dates for this year’s 13 lunar apogees (farthest points) and 13 lunar perigees (nearest points), inside.

It’s meteor season!

View larger. | Darla Young in Arkansas said she was ...

Darla Young in Arkansas said on August 1, 2015 that she was … “out photographing the Blue Moon and captured myself a meteor … A Perseid perhaps?”

Meteor season 2015 is underway, with several showers doing on now and the Perseids gearing up for a great show in a moon-free sky in mid-August. We’ll be posting pics on this page throughout the coming month.