Weekly Stargazing Tips

Unless otherwise specified, viewing times are local time regardless of time zone, and are good for the entire Lower 48 states (and, generally, for Alaska and Hawaii). Check out last week's tips if you missed a night.

Lunar Checkers

The Moon will jump over several stars and planets the next few evenings. The first is Spica, the brightest star of Virgo, which is to the left or upper left of the Moon this evening. Then come Mars, Saturn, and Zubenelgenubi, a star in Libra.

Moon and Mars

Mars stands close to the left of the Moon this evening. The planet, which is roughly half the size of Earth, looks like a bright orange star.

Moon and Companions

The first-quarter Moon snuggles close to two pinpoints of light this evening. A faint star with a great name, Zubenelgenubi, is close to the left of the Moon, with the brighter planet Saturn a little farther to the upper left.

Moon and Saturn

The giant planet Saturn stands to the right of the Moon this evening, and looks like a bright golden star. Saturn has more than 60 known moons of its own, including one with a thick, cold atmosphere and seas and lakes of liquid methane and ethane.

Moon and Antares

The bright orange star Antares, the leading light of Scorpius, is in the south at nightfall, directly below the Moon. It is at the heart of the scorpion’s curving body.

Zodiacal Light

During moonless August mornings, a ghostly pyramid of light sometimes rises from the eastern horizon. This pale glow, known as zodiacal light, is produced by sunlight reflecting off tiny dust grains in the plane of Earth’s orbit around the Sun.

The Neighborhood

A few of our stellar neighbors are hard to miss. Vega, which passes high overhead on August evenings, is just 25 light-years away. And Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, is nine light-years away. It’s ready to climb into view in the dawn sky.


©2014 The University of Texas McDonald Observatory