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Tonight

Star Skat is near radiant for Delta Aquarid meteors

When you stand on a railroad track, you can see the illusion of tracks converging in the distance.  Likewise, the paths of meteors in a single meteor shower appear to converge at a point on the sky's dome.  This is the shower's radiant point.

When you stand on a railroad track, you can see the illusion of tracks converging in the distance. Likewise, the paths of meteors in a single meteor shower appear to converge at a point on the sky’s dome. This is the shower’s radiant point.

In 2015, the Delta Aquarid meteor shower is mostly spoiled by bright moonlight. This meteor shower is named for the star Skat, or Delta Aquarius, third-brightest star in the constellation Aquarius the Water Bearer. How to spot the star – a bit about meteor showers – plus an explanation of why meteors in annual showers have radiant points.

Moon heading toward Saturn on July 24

The green line depicts the ecliptic - Earth's orbital plane projected onto the constellations of the Zodiac.

The moon will be edging toward the planet Saturn in the evenings ahead. The green line depicts the ecliptic – path of the sun, moon and planets across our sky.

Tonight – July 24, 2015 – look for the waxing gibbous moon as darkness falls. The July 24 moon shines in between two bright star-like points of light: the star Spica and the planet Saturn. Spica lies to the west of tonight’s moon. Saturn lies to the moon’s east.

EarthSky’s meteor shower guide for 2015

View larger. | Scott MacNeill created this wonderful composite image at Frosty Drew Observatory in Charlestown, Rhode Island, USA.  We love this image, because you can see the meteors coming from their radiant point in the constellation Perseus.  Thank you, Scott!

Scott MacNeill created this wonderful composite image of the Perseid meteor shower in 2013, at Frosty Drew Observatory in Charlestown, Rhode Island, USA. We love this image, because you can see the meteors coming from their radiant point in the constellation Perseus. Thank you, Scott!

The Delta Aquarid meteor shower – which always happens in late July and early August – is going on now, but bright moonlight is interfering. This shower overlaps with the famous Perseid meteor shower, which will peak on the mornings of August 11, 12 and 13. It’s going to be a wonderful year for the Perseids! The moon is out of the way. Details inside.

First quarter moon, Spica, on July 23

2015-july-23-moon-spica-night-sky-chart

Tonight – July 23, 2015 – people around the world will see the moon at or near its first quarter phase and in the vicinity of the star Spica.

Moon near star Spica on July 22

2015-july-22-moon-spica-night-sky-chart

Tonight – July 22, 2015 – as the setting sun closes the curtains on the day, and the darkening skies bring out a myriad of far-off suns, let the moon introduce you to a very special star. The nearby bright star to tonight’s moon is none other than Spica, brightest light in the constellation Virgo the Maiden.

Star of the week: Vega, the Harp Star

Sky princess Tanabata and her lover Kengyu, a mortal, meet on a bridge of magpies across the Celestial River. It's said they come together in this way each year on the 7th night of the 7th moon. Image by Anhellica via Lilliacerise's blog

One of the prettiest stories relating to Vega is popular in Asia, although there are many variations. In Japan, Vega is sometimes called Tanabata (or Orihime), a celestial princess or goddess. She falls in love with a mortal, Kengyu (or Hikoboshi), represented by the star Altair. But when Tanabata’s father finds out, he is enraged and forbids her to see this mere mortal. Thus the two lovers are placed in the sky, where they are separated by the Celestial River, known to us as Milky Way. Yet the sky gods are kind. Each year, on the 7th night of the 7th moon, a bridge of magpies forms across the Celestial River, and the two lovers are reunited. Sometimes Kengyu’s annual trip across the Celestial River is treacherous, though, and he doesn’t make it. In that case, Tanabata’s tears form raindrops that fall over Japan.

Many Japanese celebrations of Tanabata are held in July, but sometimes they are held in August. If it rains, the raindrops are thought to be Tanabata’s tears because Kengyu could not meet her. Sometimes the meteors of the Perseid shower are said to be Tanabata’s tears.

Moon crosses ecliptic, nears Spica, July 21

2015-july-21-moon-spica-night-sky-chart

Tonight’s moon – July 21, 2015 – is heading on our sky’s dome toward Spica, the constellation Virgo’s brightest star. The moon crosses the ecliptic – plane of Earth’s orbit around the sun – on July 21, too. How often does that happen, and what does it mean for our view of the moon in front of the stars? Click inside …

Use the moon as an arrow

2015-july-20-venus-jupiter-regulus-moon-night-sky-chart

Tonight’s moon can show you the ecliptic – path of the sun, moon and planets – and point you to Venus and Jupiter, which are near the horizon after sunset.

Look for moon, Venus, Jupiter July 19

2015-july-19-venus-jupiter-regulus-moon-night-sky-chart

Soon after sunset, look westward for the waxing crescent moon. Below the moon, not much above the horizon, seek for the brilliant planets Venus and Jupiter – the second-brightest and third-brightest celestial objects to adorn the night sky, after the moon. As dusk deepens, you might even spot the star Regulus forming a triangle with these two blazing planets. Be sure to look for the threesome – Venus, Jupiter and Regulus – at dusk and nightfall, for all three will follow the sun beneath the horizon by early evening.

No double moon in 2015, or ever

This image is circulating on Facebook, with the claim that Mars will appear as big and bright as a full moon on August 27, 2013.  It's a hoax.  Don't believe it.  Mars never appears as large as a full moon in Earth's sky.

This image sometimes circulates on Facebook, with the claim that Mars will appear as big and bright as a full moon on August 27, 2014. It’s a hoax. Don’t believe it. Mars never appears as large as a full moon in Earth’s sky.

The famous double moon hoax appears to be gearing up again. We hear that the word spread on Facebook in July, 2015 that there would be a double moon. Will this hoax ever die? It’s now 12 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 Mars will appear as large as a full moon in Earth’s sky. And that is just not true.