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    Articles > August 2000
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365 Starry Nights

A collection of 365 concise, illustrated essays, focused on the aesthetic as well as the scientific aspects of stargazing.
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  The Milky Way -- Our Galactic Home
Go outside on any clear night and look up at the night sky. Every star you can see with your eyes belongs to the stellar community we live in known as the Milky Way galaxy--a flattened spiral structure over 100,000 light years across. Because we are located within the Milky Way galaxy (30,000 light years from its center) we see most of it as a white glowing band stretching across the sky (see map) -- The Milky Way.

The Milky Way Rising
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We know the Milky Way galaxy is made up of over 200,000 million stars of which our Sun is just one. We also know the Universe contains over 100,000 million galaxies. That's an astonishing number of stars. It has been calculated that there are more stars in the Universe than grains of sand on every beach on Earth! Truly mind boggling.

Make a special effort to view the Milky Way one moonless night from a very dark location far from the light and air pollution that surrounds modern cities. The sight of the Milky Way as it stretches from horizon to horizon is the most spectacular sight you will ever see with your eyes, and yet it is experienced by so few people. Make the effort and you will long treasure the moment.

Elsewhere in the Sky...
Look for the brilliant white light of Venus very low in the western sky at dusk. Soon after sunset on August 30 Venus will form a pretty pair with the thin crescent Moon. The remaining bright planets are visible in pre-dawn skies. By the end of the month the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn will rise around midnight.

Use a good pair of binoculars or a telescope to view Comet LINEAR (S4) in early August. The comet is located low in the western sky and with a bit of luck may even display a short tail. Happy comet hunting!

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