This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, August 6, through Sunday, August 8, written by Sam Salem.
On Friday, Sun rises at 5:52am and sets at 8:09pm; Moon rises at 3:29am and sets at 7:26pm. On Friday, a wafer-thin crescent Moon lies about three finger-widths from the bright star Pollux just over the east north-eastern horizon before the Sun comes up. New Moon occurs on Sunday at 9:50am.
Venus, at magnitude –3.9, shines low due west during twilight. It sets around twilight’s end. Mars is hidden deep in the sunset.
Jupiter, at magnitude –2.8 in constellation Aquarius, and Saturn, at magnitude +0.2 in constellation Capricornus, shine in the east-southeast after dark. Jupiter starts the night lowest. Saturn glows yellowly, about two fists at arm’s length to Jupiter’s upper right. The pair levels out around midnight. By then they’re nearly at their highest in the south, at their telescopic best. Saturn reached opposition on August 1st and Jupiter reaches opposition on August 19th. Therefore, they’re already essentially as close and big as they’ll get this year.
The Perseid meteor shower, which peaks next week under favorable conditions, is now ramping up with a radiant 2.5° northeast of magnitude 3.8 star Miram, or Eta Persei, in constellation of Perseus. Start looking about two hours before sunrise from a location with as little artificial light pollution as possible.
Bright Vega passes closest to overhead around 11pm. It passes right through zenith at latitude 39° north. Deneb crosses closest to the zenith two hours after Vega. But to see Deneb exactly straight up you need to be at latitude 45°, which is the latitude of Portland, Minneapolis, Montreal, southern France, and northern Italy.
You look toward the center of the Milky Way galaxy when you look at the famous asterism of the Teapot in Sagittarius. The constellation of Sagittarius is supposed to be a centaur. That’s a mythical half man/half horse creature carrying a bow and arrow. These same stars also make up the Teapot in Sagittarius. The Teapot is an asterism in the western part of the constellation. It’s simple to spot. It’s best viewed during the evening hours from about July to September. The Teapot climbs to its highest point for the night around 1am when it appears due south. As seen from our mid-northern latitudes, the Teapot rises in the southeast about three hours before it climbs to its highest point. The Teapot sets in the southwest about three hours afterward. The center of the galaxy is some 30,000 light-years away. Sweep the area around the Teapot with binoculars or a telescope. You’ll see many faint fuzzy objects pop into view. They’re star clusters and nebulae located in the disk of our galaxy in the direction toward the galaxy’s center.