Friday, August 19
Saturday, August 20
Ceres, a future destination for Dawn, lurks two constellations farther east in Cetus. It's currently magnitude 8.0.
Sunday, August 21
Monday, August 22
Tuesday, August 23
Wednesday, August 24
Thursday, August 25
Friday, August 26
Saturday, August 27
Want to become a better amateur astronomer? Learn your way around the constellations. They're the key to locating everything fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope.
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. Or download our free Getting Started in Astronomy booklet (which only has bimonthly maps).
Once you get a telescope, to put it to good use you must have a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts). The standards are the Pocket Sky Atlas, which shows stars to magnitude 7.6; the larger Sky Atlas 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 8.5); and the even larger and deeper Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.75). And read how to use sky charts effectively.
You'll also want a good deep-sky guidebook, such as Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Strong and Sinnott, or the more detailed and descriptive Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner, or the classic if dated Burnham's Celestial Handbook.
Can a computerized telescope take their place? I don't think so — not for beginners, anyway, and especially not on mounts that are less than top-quality mechanically. 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."
This Week's Planet Roundup
Mercury and Venus are hidden deep in the glow of the Sun.
Mars (magnitude +1.4, crossing Gemini) rises around 2 a.m. daylight-saving time. By the beginning of dawn it's in good view up in the east. In a telescope, Mars is just a very tiny blob only 4.6 arcseconds in diameter.
Jupiter (magnitude –2.6, in southern Aries) rises in the east-northeast around 11 p.m. daylight saving time. Look above it for the little star pattern of Aries and (once Jupiter is well up) closer below it for the head of Cetus, rather dim. By early dawn Jupiter shines very high in the south, making this the best time to examine it with a telescope. It appears 40 arcseconds wide.
Saturn (magnitude +0.9, in Virgo) is sinking ever lower in the west-southwest at dusk. Look for it far below high, bright Arcturus. Left of Saturn by 11° twinkles Spica.
Uranus (magnitude 5.8, near the Circlet of Pisces) and Neptune (magnitude 7.8, in western Aquarius) are well up in the southeastern part of the sky before midnight. Here's our printable finder chart for both.
Pluto (magnitude 14.0, in northern Sagittarius) is highest in the south right after dark; don't delay. A big finder chart for it is in the July Sky & Telescope, page 64.
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 that also depend on longitude (mainly Moon positions) are for North America. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) equals Universal Time (also known as UT, UTC, or GMT) minus 4 hours.
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