September 2013

September brings us the first astronomical day of fall, a conjunction of Saturn and Venus, and plenty of times when the Moon is close to other planets.


1st, 2nd – Close Encounter – Mars, Moon – Get out early in the morning and check out the thin and low crescent Moon.  On the 1st of the month, only 10˚ (one fist-width at arm’s length) down and to the left of it will be the reddish Mars.  The next morning, the Moon will be 5˚down and to the right of Mars. 


New Moon – 5th (darkest skies)


8thClose Encounter – Moon, Venus – Look West after the Sun sets and look for a very thin waxing crescent Moon. Up and to the right only 1.5˚ (about the width of your pinky at arm’s length) will be bright Venus as the first “star” you’ll see in that direction. 


9thClose Encounter – Moon & Saturn – Right after the Moon brushes by Venus the previous day, the Moon will be about 4˚ to the left of Saturn.  Try binoculars or a telescope to the rings that Galileo called “ears” through his telescope.


First Quarter Moon – 12th (Visible until midnight)


16th - 19thConjunction – Venus & Saturn – Saturn passes by Venus on the 18th, getting less than 4˚ away.  A great binocular pair.  See if you can see Venus’ gibbous (more than half) phase and Saturn’s rings through binoculars or a telescope.


Full Moon – 19th (Visible all night)


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


Last Quarter Moon – 26th (Visible from midnight into the morning)


28thClose Encounter – Moon & Jupiter – Get out anytime after 1:30am and look to the East or Southeast and find the Moon.  Jupiter will be about 5˚ up and to the left of the Moon.  Get out the binoculars to look for the Galilean Moons of Jupiter.


30th – Close Encounter – Mars, Moon – Get out early in the morning and check out the thin and low crescent Moon.  Mars will be about 10˚ down and to the left of the Moon.


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

Planets you can see around Sunset – Venus (W), Saturn (W)

Planets you can see throughout the night – None

Planets you can see in the Morning – Jupiter (E), Mars (E)


Mercury – Not really visible all month.

Venus Sets pretty quickly after sunset (before 9pm), and will be very low in the West.  Closest to the Moon on the 8th.  Closest to Saturn on the 18th.


Mars – Look East before sunrise, you may be able to locate it close to the horizon – about 20˚-30˚ above it.  Look between Jupiter and the horizon.  Close to the Moon on the 2ndand 30th. 

Jupiter – Look East after 2am for the brightest “star” before the sun rises.  By sunrise, it’ll be 55˚ above the horizon.  Close to the Moon on the 28th.


Saturn – Last chance to catch Saturn! It sets earlier and earlier every night, getting lower and lower in the sky.  Look west just after sunset, find Venus, and look up and to the left for Saturn, until the 18th, when Saturn passes Venus and gets lower on the horizon.  Close to the Moon on the 9th. Use binoculars or a telescope and try to see its rings, or as Galileo called them, “ears”.

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 MidnightLyra, 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.


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 to help you out.