Summer evenings offer the most glorious view of the Milky Way of the entire year. The glowing band of our home galaxy arcs from Sagittarius and Scorpius in the south to the graceful outline of the swan overhead to the west of Cassiopeia in the north. Although it’s not visible from most light-polluted urban areas, under dark country skies it offers a magnificent sight.
This Week's Stargazing Tips
August 29: Moving Lights
Countless lights fill the night sky, from stars and planets to airplanes and weather balloons. One of the brightest is the International Space Station, which is sometimes visible in the deep twilight before sunrise or after sunset.
August 30: Neptune at Opposition
Neptune is floating through Aquarius, the water bearer. The planet lines up opposite the Sun right now, so it rises around sunset and remains in view all night. It shines brightest for the year as well, although too faint to see with the eye alone.
August 31: Neptune at Opposition II
With strong binoculars or a telescope, this is a good time to look for the planet Neptune. It is in view all night, and shines brightest for the year. It looks like a faint blue “star” in Aquarius, which is low in the east-southeast at nightfall.
September 1: Venus and Mars
Venus, the “morning star,” perches low in the east at first light tomorrow, with much-fainter Mars not far to its upper left. They will stand side by side on Friday and Saturday, with Venus slowly pulling away from Mars after that.
September 2: Zenith
Two points of the Summer Triangle crown the sky tonight. Depending on your latitude, they can pass at or quite close to the zenith, the point directly overhead. Vega is up first, in early evening, followed by Deneb a couple of hours later.
September 3: Moon and Aldebaran
Aldebaran, the bright orange eye of Taurus, the bull, stands to the left of the Moon at first light tomorrow. The two will be even closer as they rise tomorrow night, with the Moon actually covering Aldebaran as seen from some parts of the country.
September 4: More Moon and Aldebaran
From some parts of the country, the Moon will pass directly in front of the star Aldebaran tonight, blocking the bull’s “eye” from view for a while. The rest of the country will have to settle for a dazzling close encounter between the two.
Check last week's tips if you missed a day.