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Tonight

No double moon on August 27

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 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.

Will you catch the moon near Mercury after sunset tonight?

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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.

Messier 8 is the Lagoon Nebula

Scott MacNeill captured this beautiful photo of M8 in August 2014.

Scott MacNeill captured this beautiful photo of M8 in August 2014. He wrote, “Here’s a fantastic capture of M8 – The Lagoon Nebula I shot at Frosty Drew Observatory in Charlestown, Rhode Island, USA … I focused on M8 for a while as it was looking so sexy!”

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.

Orion the Hunter and Sirius the Dog Star

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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.

Everything you need to know: Harvest Moon 2014

Tonight's sunset and moonrise - September 19, 2013 - as seen by EarthSky Facebook friend Andy Somers in Noumea, New Caledonia.  One of the characteristics of the Harvest Moon is that it rises around the time of sunset for several evenings in a row.  Thank you, Andy.

Harvest Moon sunset and moonrise – September 19, 2013 – as seen by Andy Somers in Noumea, New Caledonia. One of the characteristics of the Harvest Moon is that it rises around the time of sunset for several evenings in a row. Thank you, Andy.

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.

Longest lunar month of 2014 starts on August 25

Simulated view of the cycle of the moon's phases from new moon to new moon. This cycle is known as the lunar month. From the years 1760 to 2200, the longest lunar month was 29 days 19 hours and 58 minutes and the shortest 29 days 6 hours and 34 minutes.

Simulated view of the moon’s phases. The period of time from new moon to new moon is known as the lunar month, lunation or synodic month. From the years 1760 to 2200, the longest lunar month spans 29 days 19 hours and 58 minutes (Dec. 9, 1787 to Jan. 8, 1778) while the shortest lasts for 29 days 6 hours and 34 minutes (June 12 to July 12, 1885).

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.

M17 is the Omega Nebula

VLT Survey Telescope image of the star-forming region Messier 17. Credit European Southern Observatory.   Read more about this image.

VLT Survey Telescope image of the star-forming region Messier 17. Credit European Southern Observatory. Read more about this image.

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.

Cassiopeia the Queen points to Andromeda galaxy

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.

Ophiuchus is part of the Zodiac, too

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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.

Look toward Milky Way center. Moon and planets before dawn

Saturday morning's moon and planets.  Giuseppe Pappa wrote,

Saturday morning’s moon and planets. Giuseppe Pappa wrote, “I woke up early this morning again to see this spectacular conjunctions. I hope you like it. Image taken from Aci Castello,Sicily,Italy 3.30 UTC, 23-8-2014.”

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.