The Moon waxes through first quarter to gibbous this week, passing Jupiter and Saturn along the way. And by the end of twilight, Jupiter-bright Mars glares low in the east. It's big, bold, and almost at opposition!
For a little perspective, observe along a line that takes you to the Moon, past Jupiter and Saturn, the Kuiper Belt, and onward into our galaxy.
Jupiter and Saturn continue shining nearly level in the south at dusk. Meanwhile, the stars show the changing of the seasons: Just after nightfall, Cassiopeia has climbed higher in the northeast than the Big Dipper has sunk in the northwest.
Vega passes the zenith in late twilight. Vega is bigger, hotter, and 50 times brighter than our Sun. But at a distance of 25 light-years, it's 1.6 million times farther away. Jupiter and Saturn still dominate the south at dusk. And fiery Mars, close and almost Jupiter-bright, rises in the east around the end of twilight. It's at its highest and telescopic best in the south around 3 a.m. daylight-saving time.
Colder weather might be coming, but don't pack away that telescope! You'll miss a powerful storm that's remaking Jupiter's North Temperate Belt, a returning comet, Mira on the rise, and a bright supernova in the Great Bear.
Betelgeuse is dimming again. . . somewhat. After its historic fade last winter to magnitude +1.6, Orion's red supergiant Betelgeuse fully recovered, to +0.4, before it disappeared into the sunset for the season. But now as it emerges low in the east before dawn, it seems to have faded back…
How would you like to see a star drop two magnitudes in the time it takes to eat dinner? Easy to do. Just check out one of these fast eclipsing binaries — they'll make your head spin.
Jupiter and Saturn line up level in the south earlier in the evening now, as summer proceeds. How early in twilight can you see them both? High upper left of them shines Altair. As night comes on, look for the Sagittarius Teapot to Jupiter's lower right.
The Perseid meteor shower is like no other. Every August it delivers up to 100 meteors an hour in pleasant weather conducive to getting outside and staying up late. What's more, most kids still aren't in school, making it possible for the entire family to enjoy the event.
It's Perseid meteor week! The shower peaks on the night of August 11th, but you may see the occasional Perseid any night and perhaps already have. Jupiter and Saturn shine in the southeast after dark. Bright Vega passes closest to overhead around 10 or 11 p.m.