Week of August 15 – August 21

 

There's no need for stargazers to set an alarm for the wee hours this week, as the sky will offer especially satisfying celestial views from nightfall until about 1am. Even with a brightly illuminated moon throughout the next seven days, two close planetary pairings should still be visible to many viewers at dark, Monday through Thursday in most mid-northern latitudes. And on Thursday itself, the full 'Lightning' moon will rise at dusk and travel across the night sky to morning.

 

The first of the two planetary pairings mentioned above brings together Mercury and Jupiter in a close approach as they light from Leo and Virgo, respectively. They will show at the western rim in mid-north latitudes for a few moments after dark in the first part of the week, disappearing fairly quickly as they follow the sun over the western horizon. The other pairing, which finds Mars and Saturn in Scorpius and Ophiuchus, respectively, is more spectacular, joined as it has been for a number of weeks by bright star Antares, the 'Rival to Mars,' and 'Heart of Scorpius.' This celestial triad, slowly expanding and contracting with its planetary members' orbital progressions, is a radiant herald for the week's brilliant moon, rising before them slightly earlier each night.

 

Viewing S, late evening.  Mars and Saturn join the red giant Antares.  

Most of the celestial show this week is in prime time, so make a point to get outside, look up, and see some stars.