Two seasonal phenomena happen every August. One happens at a cosmic level, and the other happens in my head, and fortunately they are complementary events.
In my head, I start running through the list of must-do-before-summer-ends. The days are hot but noticeably shorter, and the trails I have not hiked, the lakes I have not paddled, and the campfires I have not lingered by become more urgent. Stargazing is always on this list – clear nights under a dark sky, distinguishing stars from planets from satellites.
The universe is on my side, however, at least in the stargazing department, because August night skies are primo (here comes the cosmic phenomenon). Warm temperatures and early twilights invite us to linger outside and watch the constellations pop out–the perfect cheap date. Shooting stars add a whole other dimension. That would be the Pleiades, the mid-August late-night meteor extravaganza, and if you missed them, well–you just weren’t paying attention and need to mark your calendar for next year.
So here is my unsolicited testimonial for wanna-be star-gazers: Check out SkyAndTelesope.com, and their smartphone app SkyWeek. Other apps try to give you an actual map of the stars, but most of what I’ve seen is confusing, out of scale, or force me to spend more time focused on the screen instead of the sky. Sky Week gives a weekly list of celestial highlights to look for, and has a red-light mode that keeps your eyes adapted to the dark. A final perk: the app is free, just like stargazing itself.