Friday, August 5
Saturday, August 6
Sunday, August 7
Monday, August 8
Meanwhile, 1 Ceres lurks two constellations farther east in Cetus. It's magnitude 8.3 and brightening. After Dawn departs Vesta in summer 2012, it will fly on to take up orbit around Ceres in February 2015.
Tuesday, August 9
For complete Jupiter satellite phenomena and Red Spot predictions for August, good worldwide, see "Action at Jupiter" in the August Sky & Telescope, page 54.
Wednesday, August 10
Thursday, August 11
Friday, August 12
Saturday, August 13
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
The Sun is currently displaying a "naked eye" sunspot group; you'll only need a safe solar filter, or a #14 rectangular arc-welder's filter, to view through. Yes, the Sun is active again; my welder's glass stayed unused in the back of my desk drawer here at work for way too long!
The spot will rotate over to the Sun's western limb in the next few days after August 5th; it will become increasingly difficult to see as we view it more edge on. Read more.
Mercury and Venus are hidden in the glare of the Sun.
Mars (magnitude +1.4, approaching the feet of Gemini) rises around 2 or 3 a.m. daylight-saving time. By dawn it's in good view in the east. It's the "star" far lower right of Capella and far lower left of Aldebaran. In a telescope, Mars is just a tiny blob only 4.5 arcseconds in diameter. It's on its way to a poor opposition (13.9 arcseconds wide) next March.
Jupiter (magnitude –2.5, in southern Aries) rises in the east-northeast around 11 or midnight 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 dawn Jupiter shines very high in the southeast.
Saturn (magnitude +0.9, in Virgo) is sinking ever lower in the west-southwest at dusk. Look 12° left of it for Spica and 2° or 3° right or lower right of it for fainter Gamma Virginis (Porrima).
Uranus (magnitude 5.8, in western Pisces) and Neptune (magnitude 7.8, in western Aquarius) are well up in the east or southeast by midnight. Here's our printable finder chart for both.
Pluto (magnitude 14.0, in northern Sagittarius) is highest in the south right after dark — but this is not the week to try for it, what with the bright Moon.
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.
To be sure to get the current Sky at a Glance, bookmark this URL:
If pictures fail to load, refresh the page. If they still fail to load, change the 1 at the end of the URL to any other character and try again.