Summer evenings offer the most glorious view of the Milky Way of the entire year. The glowing band of our home galaxy arcs from Sagittarius and Scorpius in the south to the graceful outline of the swan overhead to the west of Cassiopeia in the north. Although it’s not visible from most light-polluted urban areas, under dark country skies it offers a magnificent sight.
This Week's Stargazing Tips
August 31: Neptune at Opposition II
With strong binoculars or a telescope, this is a good time to look for the planet Neptune. It is in view all night, and shines brightest for the year. It looks like a faint blue “star” in Aquarius, which is low in the east-southeast at nightfall.
September 1: Venus and Mars
Venus, the “morning star,” perches low in the east at first light tomorrow, with much-fainter Mars not far to its upper left. They will stand side by side on Friday and Saturday, with Venus slowly pulling away from Mars after that.
September 2: Zenith
Two points of the Summer Triangle crown the sky tonight. Depending on your latitude, they can pass at or quite close to the zenith, the point directly overhead. Vega is up first, in early evening, followed by Deneb a couple of hours later.
September 3: Moon and Aldebaran
Aldebaran, the bright orange eye of Taurus, the bull, stands to the left of the Moon at first light tomorrow. The two will be even closer as they rise tomorrow night, with the Moon actually covering Aldebaran as seen from some parts of the country.
September 4: More Moon and Aldebaran
From some parts of the country, the Moon will pass directly in front of the star Aldebaran tonight, blocking the bull’s “eye” from view for a while. The rest of the country will have to settle for a dazzling close encounter between the two.
September 5: Capricornus
Capricornus, the sea-goat, crawls low across the south on September evenings. It is depicted as the head and body of a goat with the tail of a fish. To modern eyes, though, it’s a wide, narrow triangle, with the longest line at the top.
September 6: Milky Way
The Milky Way arches high overhead this evening. This hazy band of light stretches roughly north-south a couple of hours after sunset, outlining the disk of our home galaxy. You need to get away from city lights to see it.
Check last week's tips if you missed a day.