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Last Week's Stargazing Tips

August 29: Trifid Nebula

Just north of the teapot-shaped star pattern marking the constellation Sagittarius, small telescopes reveal the Trifid Nebula, a fuzzy pink patch of light. The nebula is a cloud of gas and dust about 3,500 light-years from Earth.

August 28: Watching the Bear

From the handle of the Big Dipper, you can arc to Arcturus. In other words, follow the curve of the handle away from the dipper until you come to the brilliant yellow-orange star Arcturus, which is well up in the west as night falls.

August 27: Zenith

From the northern half of the U.S., two bright stars are passing through the zenith. From the latitude of about Kansas City, bright Vega crosses the zenith around 10 p.m. And from farther north, the fainter star Deneb is at the zenith near midnight.

August 26: Sunflower Galaxy

M63 is a beautiful spiral galaxy that resembles a sunflower. It’s 27 million light-years away, and it’s about the same size as our own galaxy, the Milky Way. It is in the west-northwest at nightfall, visible through a telescope to the left of the Big Dipper.

August 25: Venus and Jupiter

Jupiter perches close to the upper left of Venus, the brilliant “evening star,” tonight. They are quite low in the west shortly after sunset, so you need a clear horizon to find them. On Saturday, they will stand almost atop each other.

August 24: Moon and Aldebaran

The last-quarter Moon slides toward the eye of the bull early tomorrow. Look for bright orange Aldebaran to the lower left of the Moon as they climb into good view by 1 or 2 a.m. The Moon will move even closer to it by dawn.

August 23: Mars and Antares

Mars passes its legendary “rival” the next few evenings — the star Antares, at the heart of Scorpius. The two are in the southwestern quadrant of the sky, with the planet Saturn looking down on them. The name “Antares” means “rival of Mars.”