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.
The longest lunar month of the year begins with the new moon of August 25, 2014, and ends with the new moon of September 24, 2014. This lunar month – the period of time between successive new moons – lasts for 29 days 16 hours and 1 minute. That’s 3 hours and 17 minutes longer than the mean lunar month of 29 days 12 hours and 44 minutes.
Barely visible to the unaided eye on a dark, moonless night, Messier 17 aka the Omega Nebula is best seen though binoculars, or low power on a telescope. It’s very near another prominent nebula known as Messier 16, the Eagle Nebula. These two closely-knit patches of haze readily fit within the same binocular field of view. Follow the links inside to learn more.
In a dark sky, you might spot the Andromeda galaxy with no optical aid, as the ancient stargazers did before the days of light pollution. But what if you can’t find the Andromeda galaxy with the eye alone? Some stargazers use binoculars and star-hop to the Andromeda galaxy via this W-shaped constellation. Cassiopeia appears in the northeast sky at nightfall and swings high to the north as evening progresses. Note that one half of the W is more deeply notched than the other half. This deeper V is your “arrow” in the sky, pointing to the Andromeda galaxy.
The faint constellation Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer appears in the southwest sky on late August and September evenings, above the bright ruddy star Antares, the brightest in the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion. On our feature chart at top, we show the ecliptic – the sun’s path in front of the constellations, highlighting Scorpius and just the southern tip of Ophiuchus.
Photo above shows Saturday morning’s moon. Will you see the moon Sunday morning? It’ll be tough, but you might. In the meantime, no evening moon means a great time to look toward our Milky Way galaxy’s center.