Mars, Antares, and Saturn remain tightly grouped this month, although Mars begins to move away from the others at month’s end. By then, Venus will be inching its way into the early evening twilight, beginning a long run as the Evening Star. One of August’s greatest treats, though, is the Milky Way, which arcs overhead by midnight. It’s anchored in the south by teapot-shaped Sagittarius, which is next door to Scorpius, home to Antares and the temporary home of Mars and Saturn.
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In the Sky This Month
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 30: Algol
One of the most famous denizens of autumn skies is climbing into view. It sometimes is associated with Halloween because of its spooky name: Algol, the “demon” star. It rises in the northeast about an hour after sunset.
August 31: Annular Eclipse
Residents of Africa will see an annular eclipse of the Sun tomorrow. The Moon will pass between Earth and Sun, blocking most of the Sun’s disk. But the Moon is farther from Earth than average, so it won’t be big enough to cover the entire disk.
September 1: Neptune at Opposition
Neptune is shining at its brightest. The solar system’s most distant major planet lines up opposite the Sun, so it rises at sunset and is in view all night, in the constellation Aquarius. At a minimum, though, you need strong binoculars to see it.
September 2: Zodiacal Light
If you are in a clear, dark country location before dawn over the next few weeks, you might see an elusive phenomenon called the zodiacal light. Look toward the eastern horizon before twilight begins for a ghostly pyramid of light.
September 3: Moon and Venus
Look for the planet Venus shortly after sunset this evening, to the lower right of the crescent Moon. It is brilliant but low in the sky, and it sets by about the time the last blush of twilight fades away.
September 4: Messier 39
The star cluster Messier 39 stands high in the northeast at nightfall, to the lower left of Deneb, the bright star that marks the tail of Cygnus, the swan. A good pair of binoculars will allow you to see the entire cluster in a single view.