■ For months, most of the naked-eye planets have been hanging out in the early morning sky. Now Saturn becomes the first of the crew to return to evening view as early as late twilight. See below. It shines higher through the rest of the night.

Saturn at dusk, Aug 19, 2022
Saturn emerges low in the southeast as twilight fades. Once night is dark, look just lower left of it for Delta Capricorni, magnitude 2.8, as shown here. They're not quite 3° apart.

Nearly 20° to Saturn's upper right after full dark are the other two brightest stars of Capricornus, Alpha and Beta Cap. Alpha, the one on top, is an easy binocular double star. Beta is also a binocular double but less easy; its secondary star is both closer and fainter. Beta's secondary is in roughly the same position angle (orientation with respect to the primary) as Alpha's.
The last-quarter Moon shone between Mars and the Pleiades early Friday morning the 19th. On Sunday morning the 21st it's between the horntips of Taurus: Beta and fainter Zeta Tauri.


■ August is prime Milky Way time, especially now that the Moon is out of the evening sky. After dark the Milky Way runs from Sagittarius in the south, up and left across Aquila and through the big Summer Triangle very high in the east, and on down through Cassiopeia to Perseus low in the north-northeast.


■ This week the Sagittarius Teapot is at its highest on the meridian (due south) right after nightfall is complete. It's tilting to pour to the right, as shown below. Explore with binoculars.

The Sagittarius Teapot deep-sky and surroundings.
On dark nights, the Large Sagittarius Star Cloud seems to emerge like steam from the spout of the Sagittarius Teapot.


■ Early in the dawn tomorrow the 23rd, the waning crescent Moon shines to the right of Castor and Pollux, as shown below. Way down under them is the "Morning Star," Venus.


■ As summer progresses and Arcturus moves down the western sky, the kite figure of Bootes sprouts from Arcturus toward the upper right. The kite is 23° long, about two fists at arm's length. It's rather narrow, and its top is bent to the right. Arcturus is its bottom point where the stubby tail is tied on. The tail currently flutters downward.

The Big Dipper slants at about the same height in the northwest, to the Kite's right.


■ Look for bright Vega, the Summer Star, passing the zenith just after the last of twilight fades away (if you live in the world's mid-northern latitudes). Vega goes right through your zenith if you're at latitude 39° north: near Baltimore, Kansas City, Lake Tahoe, Sendai, Beijing, Athens, Lisbon.

■ Look east-northwast in early dawn tomorrow morning the 25th for the thin waning crescent Moon over Venus, as shown above. Think photo opportunity. They're about 6° apart; plan to zoom in accordingly. Frame some interesting foreground around them, and put your camera on a tripod or something solid.


■ The waning of August means that Scorpius, the proud starring constellation of the southern sky in July, is starting to lie horizontally in the southwest during evening, preparing to bed down and drift off for the season.


■ Late these evenings as autumn approaches, Fomalhaut, the Autumn Star, makes its inevitable appearance above the southeast horizon. Its rising time will depend on where you live. But by 10 or 11 p.m. now, you should have no trouble identifying it low in the southeast if you have a good view in that direction. No other 1st-magnitude star is anywhere near there.

Hint: It's about two fists lower left of Saturn.


■ Another sign of the advancing season: Cassiopeia is high in the northeast, its W pattern tilting up. And below it, starry Perseus is reaching up.

The highest part of Perseus includes the wintry Double Cluster. To find it, look below the lowest two stars of the Cassiopeia W, by 1½ times the distance between them. You're looking for what seems like a small spot of enhanced Milky Way glow. Binoculars or a finderscope will help you detect the Double Cluster even through a fair amount of light pollution. In a telescope the pair are a glory: a distant twin city of stars.

■ The asteroid 4 Vesta is just past opposition and showing itself at a relatively bright magnitude 6.1. This week it's in western Aquarius about 8° southeast of Delta Capricorni, which is currently the 3rd-magnitude neighbor of Saturn. Use binoculars or a telescope with the finder chart in the August Sky & Telescope, page 49. 

■ New Moon (exact at 4:17 a.m. on this date EDT).


This Week's Planet Roundup

Mercury remains very low in the sunset glow. About 20 or 30 minutes after sunset, try scanning for it with binoculars just above the horizon almost due west. Good luck. At least Mercury is moderately bright as Mercury goes: about magnitude +0.2.

Don't be misled if you sweep up sparkly Spica instead. It's some 25° to Mercury's upper left.

Venus, magnitude –3.9, rises just after dawn begins. As dawn brightens, look for it low in the east-northeast. It's far below high Capella.

Venus forms a very wide, very flattened isosceles (two-sides-equal) triangle with Procyon to its upper right and Sirius farther right. The triangle lies nearly level for observers near latitude 40° north. From Venus to Sirius is a good 50°, roughly five fists at arm's length.

Mars, magnitude 0.0 in Taurus, rises around 11 or midnight in the east-northeast. By early dawn it shines very high in the southeast. Mars is more than twice as bright as similarly colored Aldebaran, magnitude +0.9, a fist or so lower left of it.

Mars is 9½ arcseconds in apparent diameter and growing. It'll be 17.2 arcseconds wide when closest to Earth on December 1st.

Jupiter rises due east around the end of twilight, shining at a bright magnitude –2.8 at the Pisces-Cetus border. It's highest in the south around 3 a.m. daylight-saving time. In a telescope Jupiter is already 48 arcseconds wide, nearly its maximum possible, even though it doesn't reach opposition until September 26th. That's because this year it's nearly at the perihelion of its 12-year orbit around the Sun.

Jupiter on August 13th, imaged by Christopher Go at 18:32 UT with the Great Red Spot nearly on Jupiter's central meridian (which was at System II longitude 20°). South is up here, to match the view in many telescopes. The Red Spot is almost completely surrounded by dark border material of the Red Spot Hollow. Just south of it are two small white ovals. Meanwhile, the dark North Equatorial Belt is turbulent and chaotic on this side of the planet. At the time of this image the NEB displayed a tiny, bright-white outbreak, a zone of rising thunderheads.

Saturn, magnitude +0.3 in western Capricornus, was at opposition on the night of August 13-14. Spot it in the southeast in late twilight, higher in the southeast later in the evening, and at its highest and best in the south around midnight. Saturn's rings appear roughly as wide, end to end, as Jupiter's globe. See "Saturn at Opposition" in the August Sky & Telescope, page 48.

Saturn on April 22, 2022, far from opposition (top) and on August 15, 2022, one day past opposition. Note the Seeliger Effect: the brightening of the rings compared to the globe that happens for a few days around Saturn's oppositions. This occurs because dust particles in the rings preferentially backscatter light in the direction the light came from but Saturn's cloudtops don't. The same "opposition surge" occurs for Mars, the full Moon, and other objects with dusty surfaces. You can sometimes see it on dusty ground around the shadow of your head. In the case of Saturn's rings, this effect was first analyzed and described by Hugo von Seeliger in 1887.

Christopher Go took both images. South here is up. We have adjusted the originals to make the globes appear similar, to show the actual amount of the rings' brightening realistically. It's not dramatic but definitely noticeable in the eyepiece if you're a regular Saturn observer.

Uranus, magnitude 5.7 in Aries, is west of Mars before dawn.

Neptune, magnitude 7.8 at the Aquarius-Pisces border, rises in evening twilight west of Jupiter.

All descriptions that relate to your horizon — including the words up, down, right, and left — are written for the world's mid-northern latitudes. Descriptions and graphics that also depend on longitude (mainly Moon positions) are for North America.

Eastern Daylight Time, EDT, is Universal Time minus 4 hours. (Universal Time is also called UT, UTC, GMT or Z time.)

Want to become a better astronomer? Learn your way around the constellations. They're the key to locating everything fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope.

This is an outdoor nature hobby. For an easy-to-use constellation guide covering the whole evening sky, use the big monthly map in the center of each issue of Sky & Telescope, the essential magazine of astronomy.

Once you get a telescope, to put it to good use you'll need a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts). The basic standard is the Pocket Sky Atlas (in either the original or Jumbo Edition), which shows stars to magnitude 7.6.

Pocket Sky Atlas cover, Jumbo edition
The Pocket Sky Atlas plots 30,796 stars to magnitude 7.6, and hundreds of telescopic galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae among them. Shown here is the Jumbo Edition, which is in hard covers and enlarged for easier reading outdoors by red flashlight. Sample charts. More about the current editions.

Next up is the larger and deeper Sky Atlas 2000.0, plotting stars to magnitude 8.5; nearly three times as many. The next up, once you know your way around, are the even larger Interstellarum atlas (stars to magnitude 9.5) or Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.75). And be sure to read How to Use a Star Chart with a Telescope. It applies just as much to charts on your phone or tablet as to charts on paper.

You'll also want a good deep-sky guidebook. A beloved old classic is the three-volume Burnham's Celestial Handbook. An impressive more modern one is the big Night Sky Observer's Guide set (2+ volumes) by Kepple and Sanner.

Can a computerized telescope replace charts? Not for beginners, I don't think, and not on mounts and tripods that are less than top-quality mechanically, meaning heavy and expensive. And as Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer say in their Backyard Astronomer's Guide, "A full appreciation of the universe cannot come without developing the skills to find things in the sky and understanding how the sky works. This knowledge comes only by spending time under the stars with star maps in hand."

Audio sky tour. Out under the evening sky with your
earbuds in place, listen to Kelly Beatty's monthly
podcast tour of the heavens above. It's free.

"The dangers of not thinking clearly are much greater now than ever before. It's not that there's something new in our way of thinking, it's that credulous and confused thinking can be much more lethal in ways it was never before."
            — Carl Sagan, 1996

"Facts are stubborn things."
             John Adams, 1770



Image of Rod


August 19, 2022 at 4:56 am

A lovely morning sky today 🙂 Sunrise at my location near 0624 EDT. I viewed the Last Quarter Moon (0436 UT today) and Mars close together in Taurus using 10x50 binoculars. Both fit into the FOV with angular separation just a bit more than 2-degrees. M45 visible too near the Last Quarter Moon this morning, visible in the 10x50 binocular view with the Moon. Orion rising in the ESE sky, lovely sight near 0445 EDT today. Clear skies temperature 17C.

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Image of New Jersey Eclipse Fan

New Jersey Eclipse Fan

August 19, 2022 at 5:40 pm

I love the phrase "Orion rising." Maybe not technically alliterative, but the mental image alone brings a smile to my bearded face!

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Image of Rod


August 23, 2022 at 10:42 am

Another lovely early morning sky at my location near 0500 EDT. Using my eyes only, the waning crescent Moon in Gemini showed much earthshine. Winter stars rising too like Taurus, Auriga, Orion *rising*, Mars up in Taurus, and Jupiter in Cetus. Tonight, and tomorrow evening I plan to view Saturn and Jupiter using my 10-inch telescope (perhaps near 2300 EDT or 11:00 PM). However, the JWST views of Jupiter will be better 🙂

My telescope views though will be very good too 🙂

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Image of Rod


August 24, 2022 at 12:37 pm

I was able to enjoy some Saturn and Jupiter observing. [Observed 2000-0100 EDT, 23-24 August. New Moon 27-August-2022 0817 UT. Saturn opposition 14 August, Jupiter opposition 26-September. Some portions of the Milky Way visible overhead in Cygnus through Sagittarius. Using naked eye at Delphinus, I could see the constellation and fainter stars like Eta Delphini 5.37 apparent magnitude and Iota Delphini 5.40 apparent magnitude. Saturn transit 0033 EDT while I viewed, Jupiter transit 0327 EDT. I used TeleVue 19-mm WF eyepiece (63x), TeleVue 9-mm Nagler (133x), and TeleVue 1.8x Barlow lens (240x with 9-mm Nagler) with my 10-inch Newtonian. M8 (the Lagoon Nebula) a great sight at 63x, Saturn gorgeous at 240x. While observing M8, two satellites passed by in an equatorial orbit, first one satellite, then shortly another across the FOV. Both satellites were about as bright as some of the stars in M8 cluster in the eyepiece, 9 Sgr 5.87 magnitude. Shortly after 2100 EDT, I observed two polar orbiting satellites pass overhead. The 240x view of Saturn was excellent, more detail visible with Cassini division, various cloud bands, and shading. However, at 240x Saturn moves quickly across the FOV because of Earth’s rotation so keeping it centered using the guide knob on the big tube takes some skill. I could see 6 moons at Saturn and 3 Galilean moons at Jupiter. Stellarium and Starry Night show inverted Newtonian image so I could identify the six moons at Saturn. Their magnitudes ranged 8.43 to 11.81 (Enceldaus 11.81 using Stellarium 0.22.2.). I could see other stars in Capricornus, Stellarium shows magnitudes 10th-11th. Some of the stars visible near Saturn position were in the 13th apparent magnitude according to Starry Night database. I used a yellow filter at 240x on Saturn. Excellent views and detail. At 133x using no filters, easier to see 6 moons at Saturn (one was Iapetus and the other faint moon, Enceladus). I used a green filter on Jupiter with the 9-mm Nagler for 133x views. Numerous cloud bands visible and in the north region. I plan to use my 10-inch as my go to telescope for Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn observing. Brighter images and greater magnification compared to my 90-mm refractor telescope; you can see more detail. Bats were flying around earlier in the evening, later Great Horn owls came out hooting, raising a ruckus in the woods. I was hooting too. Clear skies with light winds and temperature 18C.]

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