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.

Neptune at Opposition

Neptune is putting in its best appearance of the year. The giant planet rises around sunset and remains in view all night. It is brightest for the year, too. It’s in the east-southeast after nightfall, in Aquarius. You need binoculars to see it.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


©2014 The University of Texas McDonald Observatory