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 28: Alpha Lacertae
The faint little constellation Lacerta, the lizard, is in the northeast this evening. Its brightest star, Alpha Lacertae, is about 100 light-years away. You need dark skies to see it.
August 29: Cat’s Eye Nebula
The Cat’s Eye Nebula is high in the north right now, wrapped in the coils of Draco, the dragon. It’s visible through a small telescope. It represents the colorful glow of a dying star, which is expelling its outer layers into space.
August 30: Ancient Pictures
A couple of ancient star patterns wheel low across the south on summer nights. The teapot of Sagittarius is due south at nightfall, with the wide triangle of Capricornus far to its left, in the southeast.
August 31: Moon and Planets
The weekend wraps up with a tight grouping of the Moon and the bright planets Mars and Saturn. Yellow-orange Mars is close to the lower left of the Moon at nightfall, with golden Saturn about the same distance to the lower right of the Moon.
September 1: Moon and Antares
Antares, the bright orange heart of Scorpius, the scorpion, stands to the lower left of the Moon at nightfall. The bright planets Mars and Saturn are farther to the Moon’s lower right.
September 2: First-Quarter Moon
The Moon is at first quarter early today. Sunlight illuminates exactly one-half of the lunar hemisphere that faces Earth. The sunlit portion of the Moon will continue to grow until the Moon is full on September 8, the night of the Harvest Moon.
September 3: Gamma Cephei
Gamma Cephei forms the “top” of the northern constellation Cepheus, the king. The constellation looks like a child’s drawing of a house, with Gamma Cephei at the top of the roof. The system consists of two stars and at least one planet.
Check last week's tips if you missed a day.