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See Ophiuchus, 13th constellation of the Zodiac, tonight

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The faint constellation Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer appears in the southern sky at nightfall and early evening at this time of year. It descends into the southwest sky as evening deepens into late night. Ophiuchus is sometimes called the “13th” or “forgotten” constellation of the Zodiac. The sun passes in front of Ophiuchus from about November 29 to December 17. And yet no one ever says they’re born when the sun is in Ophiuchus. That’s because Ophiuchus is a constellation – not a sign – of the Zodiac.

EarthSky’s meteor shower guide for 2014

EarthSky Facebook friend Eileen Claffey caught this meteor on the night of July 25, 2014.  The time to start watching is now!  Thanks, Eileen.

EarthSky Facebook friend Eileen Claffey caught this meteor on the night of July 25, 2014. The time to start watching is now! Thanks, Eileen.

Don’t wait until August 11, 12 and 13 to watch the Perseids in 2014. The moon will be in the way. Start watching for meteors now!

As Rosetta approaches its comet, a bright ‘neck’ and hilly terrain

View larger. | Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko .  Imaged: Sunday 20 July 2014.

View larger. | Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko as imaged by the Rosetta spacecraft on July 20, 2014.

UPDATE July 25, 2014. Some real detail is beginning to show. This image shows the 3.5-by-4-km-sized nucleus of the comet seen closer in at a distance of 5,500 kilometers / 3,400 miles by the Rosetta Mission OSIRIS NAC camera. Surface features on the nucleus are now becoming apparent in these 100-meter resolution images. Looks like the impact crater suspected on the bulbous lobe does exist, and there appear to be some linear depressions and hills on the larger lobe. Both lobes are beginning to show hilly terrain.

Stars with cool names: Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali

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On July and August evenings, try finding two stars in the constellation Libra with the coolest of all star names: Zubenelgenubi and Zubeneschamali. They’re located in between two of the sky’s brightest stars, Antares in the constellation Scorpius and Spica in the constellation Virgo. In 2014, you’ll see the golden planet Saturn shining in between these two Libra stars.

Can we find aliens by looking for their pollution?

In this artist's conception, the atmosphere of an Earth-like planet displays a brownish haze - the result of widespread pollution. New research shows that the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope potentially could detect certain pollutants, specifically CFCs, in the atmospheres of Earth-sized planets orbiting white dwarf stars. Image credit: Christine Pulliam (CfA)

In this artist’s conception, the atmosphere of an Earth-like planet displays a brownish haze – the result of widespread pollution. New research shows that the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope potentially could detect certain pollutants, specifically CFCs, in the atmospheres of Earth-sized planets orbiting white dwarf stars. Image credit: Christine Pulliam (CfA)

Maybe some extra-terrestrials pollute their planets too.

See which parts of the U.S. are losing groundwater

Image credit Chris Poulsen, National Drought Mitigation Center/University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Image credit Chris Poulsen, National Drought Mitigation Center/University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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Groundwater is the water found underground in the cracks and spaces in soil, sand and rock. Groundwater accounts for more than half of the U.S. drinking water and crop irrigation, and a source of recharge for lakes, rivers, and wetlands. It’s stored in geologic formations of soil, sand and rocks called aquifers.

This map was created using satellite data and ground-based measurements to model the relative amount of water stored in underground aquifers in the continental United States on July 7, 2014, compared to the average from 1948 to 2009.

How to see anticrepuscular rays

View larger. | Anticrepuscular rays - seen in the east at sunset - in Nevada.  Shreenivasan Manievannan posted this photo on EarthSky Facebook in July 2014.  Visit Shreeniclix Photography.

Anticrepuscular rays – seen in the east at sunset – in Nevada. Shreenivasan Manievannan posted this photo on EarthSky Facebook in July 2014.

Next time you see crepuscular rays or sunrays extending from the horizon … turn around. You might catch a glimpse of elusive anticrepuscular rays.

Nature’s roadblock to accurate seasonal hurricane forecasts

NOAA satellite image of Hurricane Mitch, the second-deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record. Mitch caused more than 10,000 deaths across Central America.  Image via Wikimedia Commons/ NCAR.

NOAA satellite image of Hurricane Mitch, the second-deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record. Mitch caused more than 10,000 deaths across Central America. Image via Wikimedia Commons and NCAR.

A new study from NCAR suggests that there is an internal variability in the way that hurricanes develop – minor variations in the atmosphere, too small for seasonal forecast models to capture – which can create major differences from one storm season to the next and which make accurate seasonal hurricane predictions difficult. They called it “nature’s roadblock to hurricane prediction.”

Beauty! Best photos of July 24 moon and Venus

July 24 moon and Venus by Brenda Steffes.

July 24, 2014 moon and Venus by Brenda Steffes.

There was a beautiful scene in the eastern sky this morning for all who had clear skies. The waning crescent moon and Venus! These photos are just a sampling of those that came in from our friends at EarthSky Facebook. Thank you to all who posted!

Video: Joshua Tree nights

A little TGIF … Shot in Joshua Tree National Park in California. Relax … and enjoy the night sky.