5 Sky Events This Week: Scorpius Eyes the Moon, and Jupiter Rises

This full-disk image of Jupiter was taken on April 21, 2014, with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). Earthbound sky-watchers get to see the gas giant return to the early morning sky this week. Credit: NASA, ESA, and A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center)

The moon glides through the mythical scorpion’s claw and appears at its largest in the heavens for 2014.

Lunar Lineup.  As darkness falls on Monday, August 4, the waxing gibbous moon, hanging in the low southwestern sky, is at the end of a cosmic lineup that includes Saturn, Mars, and Spica.

On Monday, August 4, look for the moon after dusk. It will pin down a line-up of sparkling bright star-like objects, planets Mars and Saturn and a true star, Spica. Credit: SkySafari
On Monday, August 4, look for the moon after dusk. It will pin down a line-up of sparkling bright star-like objects, planets Mars and Saturn and a true star, Spica. Credit: SkySafari

Their distinct color differences—orange hues for Mars, yellowish for Saturn, and blue-white for Spica—make them a stunning trio.

Of course if you have a backyard telescope – go ahead and check out those amazing rings around Saturn and the polar cap of Mars.

Moon and Antares.  By the next evening, Tuesday, August 5, the moon will have glided toward the south to perch above the bright red star Antares. At a distance of 600 light-years from Earth, the red giant marks the eye of the constellation Scorpius.

This skychart show the moon near the bright orange star Antares, the lead member of the constellation Scorpius after nightfall on August 5, 2014. Credit: SkySafari
This skychart show the moon near the bright orange star Antares, the lead member of the constellation Scorpius after nightfall on August 5, 2014. Credit: SkySafari

Venus and Pollux. About a half hour before sunrise on Thursday, August 7, look toward the low eastern horizon for a brilliant planet Venus hanging below the fainter but still naked-eye star Pollux, one of the twins in the constellation Gemini.

This yellowish star, 34 light-years distant, will appear only 7 degrees from Venus, which is a mere 11 light-minutes distant. Their separation in the sky will appear about equal to the width of your fist held out at arm’s length.

This skychart shows Venus making its closest approach to Gemini's Pollux twin star at dawn on August 7, 2014. Credit: SkySafari
This skychart shows Venus making its closest approach to Gemini’s Pollux twin star at dawn on August 7, 2014. Credit: SkySafari

Jupiter Returns.  After hiding out behind our sun for weeks, Jupiter makes a triumphant return to the early morning sky on Saturday, August 9.

Look for the king of the planets to rise about 45 minutes before local sunrise, shining through the glare of the dawn. The best way to spot the gas giant is using binoculars at a location with a clear, unobstructed view of the eastern horizon.

Supermoon Returns.  On Sunday, August 10, the moon is at full phase—and the closest it will be to Earth this year, 221,765 miles (356,896 kilometers) away.

 It is also the largest full moon of 2014, rising in the east at sunset.

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Changing Planet

Andrew Fazekas, aka The Night Sky Guy, is a science writer, broadcaster, and lecturer who loves to share his passion for the wonders of the universe through all media. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic News and is the national cosmic correspondent for Canada’s Weather Network TV channel, space columnist for CBC Radio network, and a consultant for the Canadian Space Agency. As a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Andrew has been observing the heavens from Montreal for over a quarter century and has never met a clear night sky he didn’t like.