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In the Sky This Month

There’s really only one skywatching event to talk about this month: a total solar eclipse. In one of nature’s most spectacular light shows, the Moon will cover the solar disk on August 21, briefly plunging a narrow path across the United States into darkness. The rest of the country will see a partial eclipse.

August 22: Microscopium

A faint scientific instrument scoots low across the south at this time of year. Microscopium was one of 12 constellations created by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille in the 18th century. Its stars are quite meager, so you need dark skies and a starchart to pick it out.

August 23: Disappearing Star

NGC 6946 is both beautiful and busy. It’s a spiral galaxy that we see face-on. Over the last century, astronomers have recorded 10 supernova explosions in the galaxy, with the most recent just three months ago. So NGC 6946 is also called the Fireworks galaxy.

August 24: Moon, Jupiter, and Spica

The Moon stages another beautiful encounter early this evening. It lines up with the planet Jupiter and the star Spica, the leading light of the constellation Virgo. Jupiter is by far the brighter of the two, with Spica close to its lower left.

August 25: Moon and Jupiter

Jupiter teams up with the Moon this evening. The solar system’s largest planet looks like a brilliant star close to the lower right of the crescent Moon. The true star Spica stands below the Moon.

August 26: Milky Way Center

If you look south shortly after sunset tonight, you’ll see eight moderately bright stars arranged in the shape of a teapot. That’s the constellation Sagittarius. It’s also where the center of our galaxy is, about 27,000 light-years away.

August 27: Wild Duck Cluster

A fetching star cluster comes into view on summer evenings. Messier 11 is more than 6,000 light-years away, in Scutum, the shield. Its brightest stars make the shape of the letter V, resembling a flight of ducks, so M11 is also known as the Wild Duck cluster.

August 28: Sagitta

A tiny arrow flies high across the sky on summer nights. Sagitta is in the east as night falls, and arcs high overhead later on. Under dark skies, you can just make out the arrow, not far to the upper left of Altair, the bright southern point of the Summer Triangle.

Current moon phase

Full MoonFull Aug. 7, 1:11 pm

Last quarterLast Aug. 14, 8:15 pm

New MoonNew Aug. 21, 1:30 pm

First QuarterFirst Aug. 29, 3:13 am

Times are U.S. Central Time.

Apogee August 2

Perigee August 18

The full Moon of August is known as the Grain Moon or Green Corn Moon.