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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 17: Moon and Venus

The “morning star” stands to the lower left of the crescent Moon before dawn tomorrow. Although it looks like a brilliant star, it’s really Venus, our nearest planetary neighbor.

August 18: Eclipse Watching

Venus, the “morning star,” looks down on the Moon at first light tomorrow. The Moon is headed toward an even more spectacular encounter on Monday, when it will cross in front of the Sun, creating a total solar eclipse.

August 19: More Eclipse

The Great American Eclipse is coming up on Monday. The Moon will briefly cover the Sun, turning day to night across a narrow slice of the United States. The rest of the country will see a partial eclipse, with the Moon covering only a portion of the Sun’s disk.

August 20: Ready for the Eclipse

The Moon will eclipse the Sun tomorrow, briefly turning day to night across part of the United States. It’s completely safe to look at the Sun when it is fully eclipsed, but not at other times; it’s so bright that it can damage your eyes.

August 21: Eclipse Day

The Moon will pass directly between Earth and Sun today, creating a total solar eclipse from Oregon to South Carolina. Day will turn to night, and stars and planets will pop into view. From the rest of the country, the Moon will cover only a portion of the Sun.

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.

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.