In August, stargazers will have several excellent opportunities to go out and admire the night sky. But the sky is very big and full of stars,
so where should you look?
As always, our popular stargazers' calendar informs you where to search for the celestial objects.
Remember that you can explore astronomical wonders from your own backyard!
Lets take a look at highlights of the August Night Sky! Make sure you don't miss the Perseid meteor shower and Blue Moon this month!
In the evening twilight, Saturn and Mars form a lovely trio with the bright star
Spica as they dip toward the western horizon.
Aim a telescope at the planets to reveal their stunning features.
Constellations and Deep-Sky Objects
Stargazing on a hot August night reveals a multitude of wonders in the summer
Lyra, the Small Harp, lies high in the late evening sky. Its main star is the great
Vega, one of the brightest in the sky.
Look for Lyra by locating Vega and then the parallelogram of stars nearby.
Epsilon Lyrae, the bright star near Vega, is actually a wonderful quadruple-star
system, known as the Double-Double.
In the parallelogram of Lyra lies the dramatic Ring Nebula. It is an expanding
shell of glowing gas expelled by the dying star at its center.
The great constellation Cygnus, the Swan, flies high through the August night.
Using bright Vega as your guide star, look for the cross just to the east. Cygnus
is also known as the Northern Cross.
Cygnus is a northern constellation lying on the plane of the Milky Way. Its name is the Latinized Hellenic (Greek) word for swan.
Albireo, at the head of the Swan, is a showpiece for small telescopes. This
spectacular pair of stars features contrasting colors of sapphire and golden topaz.
Deneb, the Swan's tail, is a supergiant star. If Deneb replaced the Sun in the
center of our solar system, it would engulf Mercury and Venus.
On a clear night, hazy patches of nebulae can be seen by casually panning
across the Cygnus area with binoculars.
The most prominent is the North America Nebula, an area of gas and dust
illuminated by the nearby, brilliant star Deneb.
Cygnus also hosts several clusters of stars. The easiest to find are M29 and M39.
M29 is found near the center of the Northern Cross. When viewed in a small
telescope, it resembles a small square.
Best seen in binoculars, M39 is a loosely bound cluster of about 30 stars, just to
the north of Deneb.
Just south of Cygnus lies the small constellation Vulpecula, the Little Fox, first
charted by Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius in the 17th century.
Vulpecula hosts the Dumbbell Nebula, which can be seen as a faint smudge in
binoculars. A small telescope reveals its double-lobed shape.
Aquila, an eagle, the thunderbird of the Greeks.
Aquila, the Eagle, was known to the ancient Greeks as the great bird of Zeus. There are several explanations for the presence of this eagle in the sky.
In Greek and Roman mythology, the eagle was the bird of Zeus, carrying (and retrieving) the thunderbolts which the wrathful god hurled at
his enemies. But the eagle was involved in love as well as war.
Altair, the brightest star in Aquila, is only 16 light-years from Earth.
The bright stars of the summer night sky, Vega, Altair, and Deneb, make up the
Use binoculars to look for the Coathanger, located halfway between Altair and
Albireo. This remarkable little group of stars forms a familiar pattern from our
point of view.
During the middle of the month, three planets grace the morning sky just before
Mercury hovers just above the eastern horizon.
Gaze upward to see Venus and Jupiter.
While Mercury can be a challenge to find, Venus and Jupiter will be easy to spot
throughout the month.
A multicolored, long Perseid meteor striking the sky just to the left of Milky Way.
Image credit & copyright: Brocken Inaglory
Astronomy dates to remember in August
August 2 - Full Moon
The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth.
August 5-6 - Curiosity lands on Mars
This is of course not an event you will be able to observe through your telescope, but can still follow Curiosity as it sets down on Mars
and begins a two-year prime mission to investigate one of the most intriguing places on Mars.
Read more here!
August 12-13 - Perseid meteor shower
The Perseid meteor shower is an always-anticipated feature of the August night
sky. Look for meteors during the early morning hours of August 12th and 13th.
These streaks of light are tiny bits of a comet burning up as they enter Earth's
The cometary debris trail, through which Earth passes once a year,
was left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle during its many visits to the inner solar
August 17 - New Moon
The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth.
August 24 - Neptune at Opposition
The blue planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. Remember,
this is the best time to view Neptune.
However, because of its distance, it will only appear as a tiny blue dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.
A blue moon is the second full moon in a calendar month. For a blue moon to occur, the first of the full moons must appear at or near the beginning of
the month so that the second will fall within the same month (the average span between two moons is 29.5 days). The full Moon on Aug. 31, 2012,
will be this type of blue moon; it will be the second full moon in one month.
August 31 - Full Moon
The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. Since this is
the second full moon in the same month, it is known as a blue moon. This rare calendar event only happens once every few years,
giving rise to the term, "once in a blue moon."
Enjoy your stargazing and if you take any great astro pictures, remember
to send the images to us so we can publish them.
Wonderful Mobile Astronomy Apps For All Stargazers!
It doesn't matter whether you are a beginner or an experienced backyard astronomer.
It's never too late to become interested in astronomy and these superb applications can help you in your stargazing pursuits.
We have put together a selection of some wonderful applications for you mobile or ipad.
Many of the applications are free and you will be amazed how beautiful they are!
Intense Blue Lightning On Saturn Visible From Space In Broad Daylight!
To see a thunderstorm from space on another planet is not an event that you will experience often, which is the reason why
these images, taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft are truly impressive.
Photographed from a distance of over two million miles, Cassini captured the largest storm seen up-close at the planet,
Beautiful Night Sky Timelapse
Takes You On A Journey To Astronomer's Paradise
There are not many locations left on this planet where you can still experience a dark sky like this.
Walking on the desert near Paranal between the scattered stones and boulders on the pale red dust feels like being on Mars but under the Earth sky.
It is an amazing experience to be under an ideal night sky, a pure natural beauty unspoiled by urban lights.
First Photo Ever Of The Entire North Pole As Seen From Space!
You have never seen the entire North Pole, not until now...
This is a unique photo showing for the first time the entire Artic region.
We have previously only been able to view parts of the North Pole, but in this very special version of
the Blue Marble image much more can be seen... Can you see your country on the image?
Intimate Connection Between Black Holes And New-Born Stars
Astronomers have known for some time that black holes and supermassive black holes accretion and star formation appear intimately connected.
However, it does not mean that powerful gravitational forces of the black holes disrupt surrounding material in their vicinity.
On the contrary, a black hole seems to be helping stars to form.
New Kepler Explorer:
View The 1,790 Distant Planetary Systems - For Free!
Armchair explorers of the cosmos can now have at their fingertips the nearly 2,000 distant planetary systems discovered by NASA's Kepler Mission.
Now available for free from the iTunes App Store, Kepler Explorer was developed through the OpenLab initiative at UC Santa Cruz,
which brought together faculty and students in astrophysics, art, and technology for a summer institute last year.
Though the universe is filled with billions upon billions of stars, the discovery of a single variable star in 1923 altered the
course of modern astronomy. And, at least one famous astronomer of the time lamented that the discovery had shattered his world view.
Stunning Satellite Photos Show America As Never Seen Before!
Incredible new satellite photos show America as you have never seen it before!
These stunning images reveal what the country looks like from the skies.
You can clearly see how the nation's transport and communication infrastructures work to power the vast nation on a daily basis.
"Something" Is Hiding Inside These Storm Clouds
During a light storm we expect to see flashes in the sky and evil-looking clouds.
What we certainly do not expect to see are objects hiding inside these clouds.
When you look at these videos and images, it appears as if there is a solid object in the middle of the clouds...
This brings us to another interesting question dealing with the likelihood that highly advanced alien civilizations
might have left our Universe into what may be called "inner space"...
2012 Noctilucent Clouds Are Back -
But Their Origin Is Still Unknown
The clouds are called noctilucent or "night-shining" clouds (NLCs) and they are a relatively new phenomenon.
Previously, they were only seen over almost exclusively in Earth's polar regions, but they are now also visible
in the skies over the United States and Europe and else where. There is no doubt any more. The clouds at the edge of space are spreading...
Beautiful Star Trails Over Australian Night Sky!
These extraordinary images are an example of beautiful star trail photography!
The sky is as just gorgeous as the landscape. The colors of the star trails are almost out of this world!
Can it really get much better that this?