Some daily events in the changing sky for August 10 – 18.
Friday, August 10
Saturday, August 11
Sunday, August 12
Monday, August 13
Tuesday, August 14
Wednesday, August 15
Thursday, August 16
Friday, August 17
Saturday, August 18
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 foldout map in 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'll need a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of maps; the standard is Sky Atlas 2000.0) and good deep-sky guidebooks (such as Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion or the enchanting though somewhat dated Burnham's Celestial Handbook). Read here how to use them effectively.
More beginners' tips: "How to Start Right in Astronomy".
This Week's Planet Roundup
Mercury and Venus are hidden in the glare of the Sun.
Mars (magnitude +0.4, in Taurus) rises around midnight or 1 a.m. daylight saving time and is and high in the east before dawn. This week it's passing about midway between the Pleiades cluster above it and Mars-colored Aldebaran (a little fainter) below it.
In a telescope Mars is still only 7.5 arcseconds in diameter, but it's on its way to a Christmas-season opposition, when it will grow to nearly 16 arcseconds wide in the evening sky. However, the dust storm that has encircled the planet for the last month may leave enough haze in the Martian air to reduce our view of Mars's surface even then.
Incidentally: if friends or family tell you they've read that Mars will become as big and bright as the full Moon later this month, point them to our article about the regular-as-clockwork August Mars Hoax.
Jupiter (magnitude –2.3, in southern Ophiuchus) glares in the south-southwest during twilight and lower in the southwest later after dark. Antares, less bright, sparkles redly 5° below it; the two are evening companions all summer. Other stars of Scorpius shine below them and to the right.
Saturn is hidden in the glare of the Sun.
Uranus (magnitude 5.7, in Aquarius) and Neptune (magnitude 7.8, in Capricornus) are well up in the south after midnight.
Pluto (magnitude 13.9, in the northwestern corner of Sagittarius) is highest right after dark, 18° east-northeast of Jupiter. Finder charts for Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto are in the July Sky & Telescope, page 60.
All descriptions that relate to your horizon — including the words up, down, right, and left — are written for the world's midnorthern latitudes. Descriptions that also depend on longitude (mainly Moon positions) are for North America. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) equals Universal Time (UT, UTC, or GMT) minus 4 hours.
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