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In the Sky This Month

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.

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 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 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 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.

Current moon phase

New MoonNew Aug. 2, 3:45 pm

First QuarterFirst Aug. 10, 1:21 pm

Full MoonFull Aug. 18, 4:27 am

Last quarterLast Aug. 24, 10:41 pm

Times are U.S. Central Time.

Apogee August 9

Perigee August 21

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