August nights provide an excellent chance to see the spectacle of the Milky Way, especially early and late in the month, when there’s little or no moonlight to overpower its subtle glow. It arcs directly overhead around midnight, anchored by teapot-shaped Sagittarius in the south. The dazzling planets Venus and Jupiter, and the fainter planets Saturn and Mars, zip past each other in the last half of the month.
This Week's Stargazing Tips
August 20: Coat Hanger
The Summer Triangle stands high overhead this evening, with the Coat Hanger Cluster near its center. Binoculars reveal six stars in a line, which form the hanger’s cross bar, while four others curl away from the bar to form the hook.
August 21: Mars and Saturn
Mars and Saturn are staging a nice encounter in the evening sky. Mars looks like a bright yellow-orange star. Slightly brighter Saturn is close to the upper left of Mars tonight. Mars will swing beneath Saturn over the next few nights.
August 22: Moon and Planets
The three brightest objects in the night sky congregate within a few degrees of each other at dawn tomorrow. The planet Jupiter is close to the upper left of the crescent Moon, with brighter Venus a little farther to the lower left.
August 23: Planet Bonanza
The Summer Triangle is one of the skywatching treats of the season. Its stars are among the brightest in the night sky, so they are visible even from light-polluted cities. They bound a region that has yielded more than a thousand confirmed planets orbiting stars other than the Sun.
August 24: Summer Meteors
On any clear, moonless night, head for a dark location, far from city lights. After your eyes adjust to the darkness, look up. Several times an hour, you should see a meteor blaze across the sky. The streak of light can remain visible for several seconds.
August 25: New Moon
The Moon is new today at 9:13 a.m. CDT. New Moon crosses the line between Earth and Sun, beginning a new cycle of phases. The Moon is hidden in the Sun’s glare, but will return in a day or two as a thin crescent low in the west after sunset.
August 26: Supergiants
Several supergiant stars highlight the sky tonight. Blue-white Spica is low in the west at nightfall, with orange Antares in the south. And before dawn tomorrow, orange Betelgeuse climbs into view in the east.
Check last week's tips if you missed a day.