A big, steaming teapot floats across the southern horizon on summer evenings: the constellation Sagittarius, the archer. To modern eyes, its brightest stars form a teapot, with the handle to the left and the spout to the right.
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.
Hercules, which is sometimes called the kneeling giant, stands high overhead this evening. None of its stars stand out. But you can find Hercules by picking out a square pattern of stars in the giant’s stomach known as the Keystone.
The Moon is new today, so it is lost from sight as it crosses between Earth and the Sun. It will return to view in a couple of nights as a thin crescent shortly after sunset.
The star cluster M13, in the constellation Hercules, is high overhead as darkness falls. This family of hundreds of thousands of stars is visible to the unaided eye as a smudge of light. Binoculars hint at its glory, as dozens of stars pop into view.
Teapot-shaped Sagittarius is low in the south-southeast as darkness falls. With binoculars, look just above its spout for two stellar nurseries, known as M8 and M20. They look like fuzzy patches of light. New stars are taking shape in these regions.
The center of our home galaxy, the Milky Way, is in Sagittarius, which scoots low across the south on summer nights. We can’t see the center with our eyes because it is hidden behind clouds of dust. It takes special instruments to peer through the dust.
The glowing band of the Milky Way arches high across the sky on summer nights. At nightfall, it stretches from almost due north, high across the east, to almost due south. It stands directly overhead by midnight. You must avoid city lights to see it.