PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – August will be a great month to look up at the heavens as stargazers will be able to see planets light up the sky, according to Franklin Institute’s Chief Astronomer Derrick Pitts.
Since last spring, there have been many opportunities to see bright planets light up the night sky.
Venus brilliantly lights up the western part of the sky. Turning to the left, facing more toward the south, a creamy Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, is visible. Slightly more left and southern and not as bright with a more yellow hue, is the ringed planet, Saturn. Further to the left, a rosy Mars is visible.
“If there ever were a perfect time to get out there and learn the planets,” Pitts said, “this is the time to do it because all four are lined up in the sky.”
Pitts also offered a tip to new stargazers. “If you’re trying to figure out the difference between planets and stars in the sky, stars twinkle and planets don’t.”
Mars is currently at a close approach to Earth, the closest it’s been in two years, which makes it appear all the bigger and brighter.
Dig out your old telescope while these planets are visible throughout August as the moon will be sliding past these planets as it orbits around Earth. The new moon is Friday night, so in another three or four days it will appear close to Venus, and as the days pass, it will appear to pass by each of the visible planets.
Venus will be dropping toward the western horizon in early September which means it’ll begin to disappear from our sky.
On Saturday, the Franklin Institute is hosting “Using Your Telescope” night. Pitts and his team will hold a 45-minute workshop on operating your telescope.
Also, on Tuesday, Aug. 14, the Franklin Institute is hosting “Night Skies In The Observatory” with Pitts. This is a monthly stargazing event and includes different events in different areas of the institute, including viewing from the fifth-floor observation deck. Admission is $10 for non-members and only $5 for members.