Saturday, August 31
Sunday, September 1
Tuesday, September 3
Wednesday, September 4
Thursday, September 5
Friday, September 6
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.
This is an outdoor nature hobby. For an easy-to-use constellation guide covering the whole evening sky, use the big monthly map in the center of each issue of Sky & Telescope, the essential guide to astronomy. Or download our free Getting Started in Astronomy booklet (which only has bimonthly maps).
Once you have a telescope, to put it to good use you'll need a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of charts). The standards are the little Pocket Sky Atlas, which shows stars to magnitude 7.6; the larger and deeper Sky Atlas 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 8.5); and the even larger Uranometria 2000.0 (stars to magnitude 9.75). And read how to use sky charts with a telescope.
You'll also want a good deep-sky guidebook, such as Sue French's Deep-Sky Wonders collection (which includes its own charts), Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Strong and Sinnott, the bigger Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner, or the beloved if dated Burnham's Celestial Handbook.
This Week's Planet RoundupMercury is hidden in the glare of sunset.
Venus (magnitude –4.0) shines brightly low in the west in evening twilight, far below Arcturus. Look a little to its left for much fainter Spica early in the week, then watch Venus close in on Spica every day. It passes less than 2° above Spica on September 5th. Binoculars help. Look too for Saturn about 14° upper left of Spica.
Mars and Jupiter shine in the east before and during dawn. Jupiter, in Gemini, is the highest and brightest (magnitude –2.0). Look for fainter Mars (magnitude +1.6, in Cancer) increasingly far to Jupiter's lower left. Off to Mars's right shines Procyon, somewhat brighter.
Uranus (magnitude 5.7, in Pisces) and Neptune (magnitude 7.8, in Aquarius) are well up toward the southeast by 11 p.m. Finder charts for Uranus and Neptune.
All descriptions that relate to your horizon 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.
Like This Week's Sky at a Glance? Watch our SkyWeek TV short, also playing on PBS.
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