The month of August is host to multiple celestial events that will leave viewers scrambling for a camera. Remote areas, such as Weyburn, will have optimal viewing conditions due to the low levels of light pollution and minimal obstructions blocking the night sky.
The first event, dubbed as the 'Sturgeon Moon', occurred August 1st. This event is noted as a 'Supermoon', the first of two in August, and is highly regarded for the spectacular amount of light it brings. The abnormally large appearance and brightness of a 'Supermoon' is due to its close proximity to Earth as it reaches its nearest orbital point. The second 'Supermoon' to visit us, also named a 'Blue Moon' for being the second full lunar phase in one month, will be at its peak on August 30th.
The Perseid Meteor Shower has also made its annual return with slow activity beginning on July 24th. Viewers will find the highest hourly rate of meteors on August 12th and 13th, with activity slowing again until the 24th. The Perseid Shower is caused by a stream of debris falling from the Swift-Tuttle comet, which makes its orbit around the Sun once every 133 years. The comet made its last near-Earth orbit in 1992 and will not be that close again until 2125. Viewers may use constellation maps to pinpoint the shower's location in our night sky. It will be most prominently seen between the constellations Perseus and Camelopardalis.
The final celestial event to watch for does not come with specific dates, as we are currently entering a years-long peak in the cyclical patterns of our Sun. Every 11 years or so, the Sun's magnetic field will flip, indicated by an increased number of spots on its surface and larger amounts of solar flares which send massive bursts of radiation towards our planet. These bursts of radiation released by solar flares ring off of the Earth's magnetic field, sending charged particles called protons and electrons into our atmosphere. When these particles react with the gasses in our atmosphere, they produce flashes of brilliant light that are sometimes visible in our night sky. We know this phenomenon as 'Aurora Borealis', or the Northern Lights.
As August wanes and the nights grow longer, Auroras will become more easily visible in our sky once again. With the Sun's magnetic field flipping a bit sooner than previously expected, the end of August may see the return of the incredible Northern Lights that visited us earlier in March. Peak viewing times for the Northern Lights are from August to April, between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m.