Some daily events in the changing sky for August 14 22.
Friday, August 14
Saturday, August 15
Sunday, August 16
Monday, August 17
Tuesday, August 18
Wednesday, August 19
Thursday, August 20
Friday, August 21
Saturday, August 22
Want to become a better amateur astronomer? Learn your way around the constellations. They're the key to locating everything fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope. For an easy-to-use constellation guide covering the whole evening sky, use the big monthly map in each issue of Sky & Telescope, the essential magazine of astronomy. Or download our free Getting Started in Astronomy booklet (which only has bimonthly maps).
Once you get a telescope, to put it to good use you'll need a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts; the standards are Sky Atlas 2000.0 or the smaller Pocket Sky Atlas) and good deep-sky guidebooks (such as Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Strong and Sinnott, the more detailed and descriptive Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner, or the classic Burnham's Celestial Handbook). Read how to use them effectively.
Can a computerized telescope take their place? I don't think so not for beginners, anyway, and especially not on mounts that are less than top-quality mechanically. As Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer say in their Backyard Astronomer's Guide, "A full appreciation of the universe cannot come without developing the skills to find things in the sky and understanding how the sky works. This knowledge comes only by spending time under the stars with star maps in hand and a curious mind." Without these, "the sky never becomes a friendly place."
More beginners' tips: "How to Start Right in Astronomy".
This Week's Planet Roundup
Mercury and Saturn (magnitudes 0.1 and 1.1, respectively) appear near each other in bright twilight just above the horizon due west. Use binoculars to look for them about 30 minutes after sunset. At the beginning of the week Saturn is above Mercury; later it's to Mercury's upper right, as shown here.
Venus (magnitude 4.0, in Gemini) blazes in the eastern sky before and during dawn, as shown at the top ofg this page.
Mars (magnitude +1.0, passing between the horntips of Taurus) is high to the upper right of Venus before dawn. To its own upper right is similar-looking Aldebaran. To its lower right is similarly colored Betelgeuse.
Jupiter (magnitude 2.9, in Capricornus) is at opposition on August 14th. It comes into view low in the southeast early in twilight the first "star" to appear after sunset. It's higher in better telescopic view by 11 or midnight.
The impact on Jupiter. A black dust marking, like those made by the Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 impacts in 1994, appeared suddenly in Jupiter's south polar region around July 18th. Backyard observers tracked it as it spread and elongated. By August 17th it had broken up and faded nearly to invisibility, as shown at right. See our article.
Uranus (magnitude 5.8, just below the Circlet of Pisces) is well up in the southeast by 11 p.m.
Neptune (magnitude 7.8, in Capricornus) appears 3° or 4° from Jupiter but 20,000 times fainter. See our finder charts for Uranus and Neptune.
Pluto (14th magnitude, in northwestern Sagittarius) is highest in the south just after dark. See the finder chart in the June Sky & Telescope diagram" target="new_window">Sky & Telescope, page 53.
All descriptions that relate to your horizon or zenith including the words up, down, right, and left are written for the world's mid-northern latitudes. Descriptions that also depend on longitude (mainly Moon positions) are for North America. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) equals Universal Time (also known as UT, UTC, or GMT) minus 4 hours.
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