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Look toward Milky Way center. Moon and planets before dawn

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Tonight for August 23, 2014

Photo top of post, by Giuseppe Pappa in Italy, shows Saturday morning’s moon and planets

This month’s new moon comes on August 25, 2014 at 14:13 UTC. New moon means the moon is gone from the evening sky, making it an excellent time to trek out to the country for an edgewise view into our own galaxy, the Milky Way. On the other hand, if you’re more of an early bird than a night owl, be sure to get an eyeful of the morning tableau before dawn. Venus and Jupiter, the third-brightest and fourth-brightest brightest celestial bodies after the sun and moon, sit low over the eastern horizon. If you’re really lucky, and sharp-eyed, you might catch the old waning crescent moon on Sunday, August 24. Follow the links below to learn more:

Look toward the center of our Milky Way galaxy

View the planets, and maybe the moon, as Sunday dawns

A planisphere is virtually indispensable for beginning stargazers. Order your EarthSky planisphere from our store.

On August evenings, when there is no moon, go to a dark location to look toward the center of the Milky Way galaxy.  It's located more or less in the direction of the famous Teapot of Sagittarius.

On August evenings, when there is no moon, go to a dark location to look toward the center of the Milky Way galaxy. It’s located more or less in the direction of the famous Teapot of Sagittarius.

See the Teapot of Sagittarius in this photo? The center of the galaxy is located in this direction. This photo comes from EarthSky Facebook friend Lewistown StormWatcher, who posted it on August 17, 2013. Thank you, LS! Click here to expand image.

Look toward the center of our Milky Way galaxy. The chart above is aimed toward the galaxy’s center, which is located some 30,000 light-years away. Many people find it by locating the prominent asterism known as the Teapot in the constellation Sagittarius. Notice the Teapot on our chart and in the photo below it.

The chart shows that the starlit trail of the Milky Way seems to bulge just before it reaches the southern horizon. You can see this bulge in the night sky, and it marks the approximate location of the Milky Way’s center. This part of the Milky Way is vastly more spectacular in a dark night sky than it appears here on our chart! The constellations Sagittarius and Scorpius lie in this direction as well.

Unlike on the chart or photo, if you find a dark sky in the evening around now, you can look at the starlit band arcing completely across the sky. When you see this hazy arc, you are peering edgewise into our own Milky Way galaxy.

The most important thing about seeing the Milky Way is to find a dark location. In the months of August, September and October – if you go someplace really dark – simply look up in the evening. The beautiful panorama will be waiting for you: a hazy band stretching all the way across the sky. The haze consists of myriads upon myriads of stars.

So take advantage of the the moon-free evenings, and go stargazing. And if you have them, bring along a pair of binoculars. If you scan with binoculars along the Milky Way, you’ll find many lovely clusters of stars. No need to know their names to enjoy them!

K. King captured this photo this morning (August 23, 2014) of the moon, Venus and Jupiter over the Myakka River in Florida.

K. King captured this photo this morning (August 23, 2014) of the moon, Venus and Jupiter over the Myakka River in Florida.

View larger. | Dennis Chabot captured this image of the moon, Jupiter, some of Jupiter's moons, and M44 aka the Beehive star cluster.  Click to the larger view to see the Beehive - a sprinkling of stars above Jupiter.

View larger. | Dennis Chabot captured this image this morning (August 23, 2014) of the moon, Jupiter, some of Jupiter’s moons, and M44 aka the Beehive star cluster. Click to the larger view to see the Beehive – a sprinkling of stars above Jupiter.

It'll be extremely hard to catch the old waning crescent moon before sunrise on August 24.

It’ll be extremely hard to catch the old waning crescent moon before sunrise on August 24.

View the planets, and maybe the moon, as Sunday dawns. We hope you’ve been watching the predawn sky over these past few morning, to see the waning crescent moon sweep past the sky’s brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter. Will you see the moon Sunday morning? It’ll be tough, with the moon so close to new. But the planets will be up there, and some photographers are also catching the beautiful Beehive star cluster (aka M44) near Jupiter. So give the moon – and planets – and even the Beehive – a try if you have an unobstructed eastern horizon before dawn. If you get a photo, send it our way!

Bottom line: The center of the Milky Way lies in the direction of the Teapot in Sagittarius. If you are in the Northern Hemisphere, look southward in the evening. If you are in the Southern Hemisphere, look overhead. Also, on the morning of Sunday – August 24, 2014 – look for the moon before dawn. This month’s new moon comes on August 25, 2014 at 14:13 UTC.

Can you show me a detailed view of the Milky Way center?

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