Photo of the Week. One of the radio telescopes of the
Very Large Array in New Mexico "watches" the Universe.
Astronomy news for the week starting Friday, August 26, 2011.
We go through new Moon this week the evening of Sunday, August
28th, the night skies for a couple days before and after then fully
dark. Prior to that invisible event, the morning of Saturday the
27th you might admire the very thin waning
crescent to the east in the light of early dawn well below Castor and Pollux in Gemini and, if you have a good horizon, above climbing
Mercury and the Moon will then pass each other that night out of
sight. Your next view of the Moon, as a thin waxing crescent, will be in western evening
twilight the evening of Tuesday the 30th. Watch then as it grows
toward first quarter next Sunday,
September 4, its nighttime side, lit by Earthlight, fading away.
Saturn is now
setting at the end of twilight and is effectively gone. Jupiter, most
assuredly, is not, the bright planet now seen rising in the east by
10:30 PM Daylight Time, less than an hour after the sky is fully
dark. Up all night, the giant planet (just north of the Aries-Cetus border) does not even transit the meridian to the south until the first
glimmers of dawn. That then is the time to look for Mercury, which
is now making a fine appearance, rising just after the start of
morning twilight. In between, you can admire Mars. First
magnitude and slowly brightening, the red planet is mixing it up
with the stars of eastern Gemini, passing close to the modest star
With the Moon out of sight, late August/early September is a prime
time for early-evening viewing of the Milky Way. Falling from nearly overhead
in Cygnus, filled with dark star-forming clouds (seen
best in the northern hemisphere as the "Great Rift" that divides
the starry stream in two), it brightens majestically toward the
southwest, reaching its maximum brightness and width around the center of the Galaxy in Sagittarius, the true and optically-
invisible Galactic Center containing a four-million-solar-mass black hole. In
between, the Milky Way passes by Altair in Aquila, then a bit to the southwest of the star
brightens in a prominent patch in the modern constellation of Scutum, the Shield.