Sagittarius and Scorpius glide across the southern sky on August nights, with the curving body of the scorpion leading the teapot of Sagittarius. Both constellations are easy to pick out under even moderately dark skies. Jupiter and Saturn, the giants of the solar system, are at their best this month. And Venus anchors the western sky shortly after sunset as the dazzling Evening Star.
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In the Sky This Month
August 1: Saturn at Opposition
Saturn is at its best for the year. The planet rises around sunset, is in view all night, and shines at its brightest, like a bright golden star. It’s low in the southeast as night falls and in the southwest at first light. The brighter planet Jupiter follows it.
August 2: 61 Cygni
After the Sun, the first star whose distance was accurately measured was 61 Cygni. It is part of Cygnus, the swan, which passes high overhead tonight. 61 Cygni is about 11 light-years away. It appears fairly close to Deneb, the swan’s tail.
August 3: Astonishing Mira
Mira, a star that changes brightness, should be at its best this month. The star puffs in and out like a beating heart, changing brightness with each beat. It is in Cetus, the sea monster. It is in good view by 2 a.m. and stands halfway up the sky at dawn.
August 4: Saturn at Opposition II
Bright golden Saturn is at its best for the year this week. It is low in the southeast at nightfall and remains in view all night, to the right of brighter Jupiter. Through a telescope, its brightest moon, Titan, looks like a tiny star close to the planet.
August 5: Evening Highlights
Vega stands high overhead this evening, with yellow-orange Arcturus high in the west and pure orange Antares low in the southwest. And under a dark sky, away from city lights, the Milky Way arcs high across the east.
August 6: Delta Cephei
Delta Cephei is one of the leading lights of Cepheus, the king, which is in the north and northeast at nightfall. The star is unstable, so it pulses in and out like a beating heart. It has a small, close companion star.
August 7: Serpens South
Serpens South, a star cluster in the serpent, blazes with hundreds of young stars and is just 1,400 light-years away. It is invisible to the eye, though, because it’s enshrouded by dust. It is in the south at nightfall, above the “teapot” of Sagittarius.
New August 8, 8:50 am
First August 15, 10:20 am
Full Augsut 22, 7:02 am
Last August 30, 2:13 am
Times are U.S. Central Time.
Apogee August 2, 29
Perigee August 17
The full Moon of August is known as the Grain Moon or Green Corn Moon.