Enjoying EarthSky? Subscribe.

110,850 subscribers and counting ...

Tonight

Spectacular! Moon and Venus before dawn July 24

2014-july-23-venus-mercury-moon-night-sky-chart

Get up an hour or more before sunrise Thursday (July 24, 2014) to view a beautiful morning tableau. The waning crescent moon and planet Venus – second-brightest and third-brightest heavenly bodies, respectively, after the sun – will be together in the eastern morning twilight. The darkened portion of the crescent moon might be shining dimly in earthshine.

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.

Keep watching east before dawn as moon sweeps past planets

On Wednesday morning, July 23, the moon is between the star Aldebaran and the planet Venus.  Look east before dawn.

On Tuesday morning, July 22, the moon is near the star Aldebaran. On Wednesday morning, July 23, the moon is between Aldebaran and the planet Venus. Look east before dawn.

If you’re an early riser, you might know that the old moon has been back in the east before dawn this week. What to expect in the coming mornings, inside.

Saturn stationary – moon near Aldebaran – on July 21-22

On the morning of July 22, 2014, you'll find the moon in the predawn sky, right next to the red star Aldebaran.

Before dawn on July 22, 2014, you’ll find the moon in east, near the red star Aldebaran.

At evening, Saturn shines in front of Libra, close to star Zubenelgenubi. It is stationary on this night, unmoving with respect to the stars. Meanwhile, set your alarm for the coming mornings. The moon before dawn is strikingly near star Aldebaran on Tuesday, moving toward planets Venus and Mercury in the coming mornings.

Moon, star cluster, bright star beautiful before dawn July 21

2014-july-20-aldebaran-pleiades-moon-night-sky-chart

Put your coffee pot on a timer and set your alarm for a couple of hours before sunrise on July 21. You’ll want to get up early to see the waning crescent moon, Pleiades star cluster and the red star Aldebaran adorning the early morning sky. Look east before dawn. If you get up too late, you’ll still enjoy seeing the brightest star-like object in all the heavens: the planet Venus.

Venus and Mercury before sunrise in the hottest part of summer

The horns of the waning crescent moon point away from Venus and Mercury, whereas the bow of the moon points toward Venus and Mercury.

You can enjoy Venus and Mercury any morning around now, but beginning around Sunday morning, July 20, 2014, you’ll find the moon near the planets. The horns of this waning crescent moon point away from Venus and Mercury, while the bow of the moon points toward them.

If you’re up early, enjoying the relative coolness of the predawn and dawn hours on these July 2014 mornings, be sure to look east before sunrise to catch the planets Venus and Mercury. They’ll be low in your eastern predawn sky some 75 to 60 minutes before the sun comes up. Venus, the brightest starlike point of light in all the heavens, outshines Mercury by leaps and bounds. But Mercury is still plenty bright, shining on par with the sky’s brightest stars. Start with the waning crescent moon and draw an imaginary line through dazzling Venus, to locate Mercury near the horizon.

Summer Triangle: Deneb and Cygnus the Swan

Summer Triangle captured on July 9, 2012 – by EarthSky Facebook friend Annie Lewis in Madrid, Spain. Thanks, Annie.

Tonight’s chart has you looking eastward at the famous Summer Triangle. Deneb is the northernmost star in the Summer Triangle. Its constellation is Cygnus the Swan. In a dark country sky, you can see that Cygnus is flying along the starlit trail of the summer Milky Way.

Top 6 tips for using ordinary binoculars for stargazing

Self-portrait with binoculars via gerlos

Self-portrait with binoculars via gerlos

You’ve probably got a pair of binoculars lying around your house somewhere. They may be perfect – that’s right, perfect – for stargazing. Follow the links inside this post to learn more about the best deal around for people who want to get acquainted with the night sky: a pair of ordinary binoculars.

Summer Triangle: Altair and Aquila the Eagle

10jul19_430

In the east after dark, near the horizon, Altair, the brightest star in the constellation Aquila, the Eagle, springs into view. This is the bottom star of the Summer Triangle. In the sky, you’ll see that this bright star has a slightly fainter star on either side.

Eltanin and Rastaban are the Dragon’s eyes

Eltanin and Rastaban near bright star Vega

If you’re in a city or suburb, look for Eltanin and Rastaban near bright star Vega in the constellation Lyra. Do you know the Summer Triangle? If so, draw an imaginary line from the star Altair through the star Vega to find the Dragon’s eyes glaring at you from high overhead on July evenings and at nightfall in August.

Our human eyes and brains tend to pick out pairs of stars on the dome of night, especially if the two stars are relatively bright. Few such couplings represent true partner stars in space, however; rarely are the two stars gravitationally bound. Some well-known stellar pairs that are not truly bound include the two stars of the constellation Gemini the Twins – Castor and Pollux – as well as the Little Dipper’s bowl stars Kochab and Pherkad. On Northern Hemisphere summer nights, another famous pair of stars glares down at us from up high in the northern sky. These stars are Eltanin and Rastaban. They representing fiery Eyes of the constellation Draco the Dragon. Like many pairs of stars, these two look close together only because they are aligned on nearly the same line of sight, as seen from Earth. Follow the links inside to learn more.