September 2012

No special events this month, however the Moon is getting very close to Jupiter, Venus, and Mars this time around (not as close to Saturn, and Mercury isn't even visible this month).  The rate at which daylight is decreasing is at its greatest, thus we are able to start seeing the winter constellations in the morning and hang on to Saturn and Mars a little bit longer in the evening.

EVENTS...

8th - Close Encounter - Jupiter & Moon - This is a great one!  Jupiter will be only 1˚ away (to the left) from the Moon.  The Moon rises around midnight, so this will be visible in the east until sunrise.

Last Quarter Moon - 8th (Visible from midnight into the morning)

12th - Close Encounter - Venus & Moon - Get up after 4am but before sunrise, look east, and you'll see bright Venus about 4˚ to the left of the thin crescent Moon.

New Moon - 16th (darkest skies)

17th-19th - Close Encounter - Moon, Saturn, Mars - On the 17th, look WSW after sunset (7:10ish or later) and find the very thin waxing crescent Moon very low on the horizon.  Above it about 10˚ (a fist-width at arm's length) will be Saturn.  About 20˚ to the left and a little but up from Saturn will be red Mars.  On the 18th, the Moon will be higher and in between Saturn and Mars.  Then on the 19th, the Moon will pass just 1˚ below Mars, making it a good binocular and/or photography pair.

First Quarter Moon - 22nd (Visible until midnight)

22nd - Fall Equinox - When all locations on Earth experience a day of almost exactly 12 hours and a night of almost exactly 12 hours.  It is the astronomical first day of fall, even though meteorologically it typically starts in the beginning of September

Full Moon - 30th (Visible all night - East around sunset, West around Sunrise)

PLANETS...well, the ones visible with your naked eye

Planets you can see around Sunset - Mars (SW), Saturn (WSW)

Planets you can see throughout the night - Jupiter (E)

Planets you can see in the Morning - Jupiter (S), Venus (E)

Mercury - Hidden in the Sun's glare all month.

Venus - A very high morning "star" this month. The brightest object in the morning East, will be lowest at 4am, rising up to about 40˚ by daybreak.  A telescope will allow you to see Venus in its half phase.  Closest to the Moon on the 12th.

Mars - In the SW after sunset, and sets around 9pm.  Look for the reddish-hued object only about 10˚ above the horizon.  Very close to the Moon on the 19th.

JUPITER - Rises in the East around midnight and visible until sunrise, when it's 70˚ above the Southern horizon. Close to the Moon on the 8th.  Use binoculars or a telescope to try to see the four Galilean Moons.  If you're looking at Orion in the morning, Jupiter's the very bright one above it, in Taurus.

Saturn - In the SW after sunset, and sets around 8:30pm.  Extend the handle of the Big Dipper and follow that arc to Arcturus, then speed on to another bright star Spica, where Saturn is hanging out for this last month of visibility until mornings in November - use a star chart to help.  Close to the Moon on the 17th.

CONSTELLATIONS... (see sky map link at the bottom for a Star Map for this month - or ask Mr. Webb)    Look straight up and you'll see...

Just after Sunset (around 7:30pm) - Lyra the Harp, Cygnus the Swan

Extra Challenge! Use binoculars (or even a telescope) and a star chart to scan through the southern constellation of Sagittarius.  There are at least 7 easily visible clusters and nebulas up and to the right of the "teapot" of Sagittarius.

Between Sunset and Midnight - Lyra, Cygnus, Aquila (a little to the south) - These are the Summer constellations, and since they are visible right above us around midnight (and to the east after sunrise), it's now summer!  More details below in the "General Constellation Finding Tips"

Midnight - Lacerta, Pegasus, Andromeda - Extra Challenge! Using your naked eye (dark-adapted and in a dark area) or binoculars under normal conditions and a star chart, try finding our neighboring Andromeda Galaxy.  It'll be a faint fuzzy in the constellation Andromeda.

Early Morning - Perseus, Auriga -  Also, if you look to the SE in the morning, you'll find the winter constellations of Orion, Taurus, Auriga, Gemini, and Canis Major.

GENERAL CONSTELLATION FINDING TIPS:

Summer Constellations: Lyra, Cygnus, Aquila, Delphinus

Look up before 10pm and you'll be able to see Lyra (the Harp), Cygnus (the Swan), Aquila (the Eagle), (and Delphinus the Dolphin.)  These three constellations have the three brightest stars of the summer constellations (Vega, Deneb, Altair - respectively.)  Those bright stars create the summer triangle.  Off to the east of this is the small but beautiful constellation of Delphinus. If you're under dark skies (away from city lights) you may just catch a glimpse of the Milky Way passing through Cygnus and Aquila.  If you're looking past 10pm, they'll be moving toward the West and lower in the sky.

Fall Constellations: Andromeda, Pegasus

If you can find the Summer Triangle and Delphinus, about 40˚ to the East (leftish) will be the Great Square of the fall constellation Pegasus.  Perhaps you'll even see the two curves of Andromeda off of one side, with the Andromeda Galaxy as a small, faint fuzzy nearby (you'll need dark skies to see it).  A sky map will help you tremendously in finding these.  You'll see these in the East after sunset, straight above you around midnight, and in the West in the morning.

Use a sky map from www.skymaps.com to help you out.



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