Apair of prominent constellations heralds the short, hot nights of summer: Scorpius and Sagittarius. By the middle of August, the scorpion stands due south as night falls. Under an even modestly dark sky, you should easily make out its curving body, punctuated by the hook-shaped stinger just above the horizon. Sagittarius follows Scorpius across the sky. Its brightest stars form the outline of a teapot. Under a dark sky, “steam” appears to rise from the spout — the hazy band of the Milky Way, outlining the disk of our galactic home.
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In the Sky This Month
August 22: Aquila
Aquila, the eagle, soars high across the sky tonight, partially immersed in the glow of the Milky Way. Look beginning about an hour after sunset, when Aquila and its brightest star, Altair, are halfway up the southeastern sky.
August 23: Moon and Aldebaran
Look for the face of the bull at dawn tomorrow, to the right of the Moon. The bright star close to the Moon is Aldebaran, the bull’s eye. It moves through the galaxy alone. The other stars in the V-shaped face are members of the Hyades star cluster.
August 24: Scorpion and Archer
Scorpius and Sagittarius are in the south at nightfall. Look for the curving body of the scorpion just above the horizon, with orange Antares in its middle. Sagittarius is to the left of the scorpion, with its brightest stars forming a teapot.
August 25: Neptune
Neptune, the Sun’s most remote major planet, is nearing its best showing of the year. It climbs into view in early evening, at the western edge of Aquarius. It’s so faint, though, that you need a telescope to see it.
August 26: Solar Twin
18 Scorpii, a star that is a near twin to the Sun, stands high in the southwest at nightfall, far above Antares, the heart of the scorpion. 18 Scorpii is a few degrees hotter than the Sun and a little bit brighter and more massive.
August 27: Moon in the Beehive
The Moon will pass through a “beehive” early tomorrow. It will cross in front of M44, the Beehive star cluster, in Cancer, the crab. They will be low in the eastern sky at first light. Binoculars will reveal several of the cluster’s stars.
August 28: Big Dipper
The Big Dipper hangs in the northwest this evening, with its handle up high and its bowl below it, as though it were ready to take a dip from a celestial stream.