As darkness falls around the world on August 30, look for the star Spica to the west of tonight’s waxing crescent moon. Planets Mars and Saturn are to the east of tonight’s moon. Remember, west is in the direction of sunset.
Here’s your FAQ for this Friday ….
Light is the fastest-moving stuff in the universe. It travels at an incredible 300,000 kilometers (186,000 miles) per second. That’s very fast. A light-year is the distance light travels in one year. How far is that?
As soon as darkness falls on August 29, look low in the southwest sky for the slender waxing crescent moon and the star Spica. Over the next few days, at nightfall, watch for the moon to move away from Spica and toward the planets Mars and Saturn. Be sure to catch the moon and Spica as soon as darkness falls, for the two will follow the sun beneath the horizon shortly thereafter.
This star, 61 Cygni isn’t among the brightest stars. In fact, it takes some effort just to find it, because it is not much brighter than the faintest stars visible to the unaided human eye. It is, however, among the most important of stars visible without optical aid. It has one of the largest proper motions – that is, sideways motions along our line of sight – of any star in our sky. Its large proper motion has given 61 Cygni the nickname Flying Star. Follow the links inside to learn more.
Look westward as soon as darkness falls on August 28 to catch the slender waxing crescent moon fairly close the horizon. That bright star close to the moon is Spica, the brightest in the constellation Virgo the Maiden. Don’t delay, though, when looking of the moon and Spica, especially if you live at northerly latitudes, for the twosome will follow the sun beneath the horizon by early evening.
The famous double moon on August 27 hoax has come through like gangbusters this August. No one expected that! This hoax is now 11 years old. Still, clearly, not everyone knows it’s a hoax. Google searches have made this post the most popular on our site for the past week. An email must be circulating – somewhere, social media must be buzzing – with the suggestion that – on August 27, 2014 – Mars will appear as large as a full moon in Earth’s sky. And that is just not true.
Our sky chart shows the moon and the planet Mercury as they appear in North America, about 35 to 40 minutes after sunset. For the most part, the thin waxing crescent moon and Mercury sit too close to the glare of sunset to be visible from mid-northern latitudes and farther north. These two worlds will be hard to spot after sunset at northerly latitudes, even in binoculars.
People in the Southern Hemisphere should have an easier time catching the young moon and Mercury after sunset on August 27. For example, At Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mercury sets about one and one-quarter hours after sunset, and the moon sets about 2 hours after the sun. At Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on the other hand, Mercury sets less than 45 minutes after the sun, and the moon sets about 50 minutes after sunset.
The Lagoon Nebula, also known as M8 or Messier 8, is a large gas cloud within the Milky Way Galaxy, barely visible to the human eye under good conditions. It appears a few degrees above and to the right of the Teapot asterism in the constellation Sagittarius. Visually about three times the size of the full moon, the Lagoon Nebula is the largest and brightest of a number of nebulosities in and around Sagittarius. Follow the links inside to learn more.
The first hints of the changing of the seasons can be seen in the predawn and dawn sky: Orion the Hunter and Sirius the Dog Star. The very noticeable constellation Orion the Hunter rises before dawn at this time of year, and Sirius follows the Hunter into the sky at or close to dawn. Orion will become visible in the evening by winter, but presently the Hunter lords over the southeastern sky at dawn’s first light.
The moon will return to the evening sky this week, waxing toward full. Next full moon – night of September 8-9, 2014 – is the Harvest Moon.