Sunday 22 August
The Moon passes 4 ° south of Jupiter at 1 a.m. EDT. At this time, both are some 35 ° high in the southern sky, impossible to miss. Jupiter, which appears directly above the Moon, has a magnitude of -2.9 – still visible even in the bright wash of the nearby moon. Both straddle the border between Capricorn (in the west) and Aquarius (in the east). The star visible at a point west of a line drawn between them is Deneb Algedi, also known as Delta (δ) Capricorni. Look approximately 17.5 ° to the lower left of the Moon (southeast) to locate the star Fomalhaut in Piscis Austrinus the southern fish.
If you are able to zoom in on Jupiter with a telescope, you might spot its four Galilean moons, arranged with two on either side of the planet: Europe (the farthest) and Ganymede are nestled next to each other at the east, while Io and Callisto (much further) lie to the west. If you follow the moons until morning twilight, you will see them come closer to the planet, as if they are being pulled inward by strings. Their relative positions, however, do not change.
The full moon occurs about two hours after sunrise at 8:02 a.m. EDT. It won’t be visible at that time, but you can catch it within an hour of sunset tonight. The full moon in August is traditionally referred to as the sturgeon moon. But this Full Moon is also a Blue Moon, because it is the third Full Moon of a season containing four Full Moons in total. (Note that this is a different definition, first used in 1528 according to NASA, than the more popular – and much more recently coined – term, which refers to two Full Moons in a single month. )
Moonrise: 8:24 p.m.
Moon setting: 6:10
Moon phase: Full
Monday 23 August
The Moon passes 4 ° south of Neptune at 10 p.m. EDT. At this time, the couple is still relatively low in the east, both in the southeast of Aquarius. The bright moon, while beautiful, will make it more difficult to find the distant ice giant.
Neptune shines slightly brighter than magnitude 8 and can usually be seen with binoculars or a telescope. It will appear as a slightly “flat” star located directly between two slightly brighter field stars (magnitude 6.5 and 7). It also forms the apex of a triangle with the Moon and the 4th magnitude Phi (ϕ) Aquarii as the base.
Another 4 ° or so north of Neptune is the Circle of Pisces – an asterism, or unofficial grouping of stars, which traces the head of one of the two Pisces that make up the constellation. The diadem contains seven stars: Gamma (γ), 7, Theta (θ), Iota (ι), 19, Lambda (λ) and Kappa (κ) Piscium. Do not confuse the bright Beta (β) Piscium with one of the stars in the Circle – it sits a little above the point halfway on a line drawn between Gamma and Theta, and is not part of the asterism.
Sunset: 7:45 p.m.
Moonrise: 8:52 p.m.
Moon setting: 7:19
Moon phase: Gibbous decreasing (98%)
Tuesday 24 August
For enthusiasts with a 6-inch or larger telescope and dark country skies, Comet 4P / Faye is a tempting target as it glides past the Hyades. Rising around midnight, wait an hour or two before dawn to give Taurus time to reach a better position higher in the sky. The Gibbous Moon is unfortunately also hanging around, but will only get closer in the coming days, so this is one of your last best chances to take advantage of the comet amid the multitude of pleasantly crowded stars that mark the face of Taurus.
This morning, Faye’s magnitude 10 fuzz is floating just 0.5 ° east-southeast of Epsilon (ϵ) Tauri, also known as Ain. And about 2 ° west-northwest of the comet is the Hind Variable Nebula (NGC 1554/5), which, between moonlight and the need for a large telescope to see it, is probably off-limits to most observers. This unique nebula could appear under the careful attention of an experienced astrophotographer. Hind’s Variable Nebula and its associated young star, T Tauri, both vary in irregular brightness over time. The nebula also varies in size and shape. If you have a large hobbyist telescope and have some spare time, give it a try, especially after the moon has left. You may also want to return to this location later this year, ideally at a time when Taurus is even higher in the sky and there is no bright moon.
Sunrise: 6:20 a.m.
Moonrise: 9:17 p.m.
Moon setting: 8:25
Moon phase: Gibbous decreasing (94%)