Our own galaxy, the Milky Way, is the main attraction in August skies after nightfall. If you look south and low along the horizon, you will see the teapot-shaped constellation Sagittarius (the Teapot). Just above Sagittarius you will see two bright bands of stars that may, if you are at a very dark-sky location, stretch across the entire sky to the W-shaped constellation Cassiopeia in the north-northeast (and also low along that horizon). When you look toward Sagittarius, you are looking directly toward the center of our spiral galaxy, and the Milky Way,therefore, glows brightest just above this constellation. You can clearly see a dark central band with numerous spidery fingers that split the bright Milky Way into two distinct parts and this is known as the “Great Rift”. It is actually an immense, dark molecular cloud that hides the stars beyond it. If you draw a line from the top of the handle of the Teapot to top of its lid and extend that line an equal distance beyond the lid, you will come to a spectacular binocular object known as the Lagoon Nebula (M8) — an emission nebula and a star factory similar to the Orion Nebula.
August is also famous for its meteor shower, the Perseids. The peak viewing time for these meteors will be after 12:00 am on August 12/13, but the Moon will still be bright enough to partially interfere with viewing the meteor shower. After 12:00 am on the 12th, look to the northeast near the horizon for the distinctive “W” shape of Cassiopeia and the constellation Perseus below it (i.e., closer to the horizon). The meteors will appear to originate from this part of the sky.
If you can rise very early on the morning of August 18th (in fact, 30 minutes before sunrise), you can see the two planets, Venus and Jupiter, almost on top of each other (only .20 degrees apart) in the east-northeast and very low to the horizon. These conjunctions are not that common. In fact, the previous close conjunction of these two planets last took place in May 2000.