September 2017

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         Welcome to Observing With Webb, where the armchair astronomer figures out what they’re looking at, why it’s so cool, and what they should check out next.  Don’t forget to check out my Podbean page, YouTube Channel, and Twitter feed, or get my podcast feed on Stitcher, or iTunes.

WOW! That Total Solar Eclipse was something wonderful! Traveling to Columbia, SC had me worried for a little bit, since they were predicting 55% cloud cover, but the clouds parted, my cameras read the code correctly, my laptop did NOT overheat, and I was lucky to get some awesome pictures.  The best part, though was experiencing it with my family and seeing how excited my son was when it happened and how my wife, who usually comments at how grey and fuzzy things are in the telescope, was amazed by what we could see.  I’ll be putting together a full video of everything, but I’ve been busy putting together STEM videos and starting the school year, so eclipse videos and photoshopping are on the back burner right now.

September is decidedly LESS exciting than August, with 3 naked eye planets, 2 binocular visible, and some typical close encounters betwee the Moon and the planets.  It’s a great month to just get out there and take a look.


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

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

Planets you can see throughout the night – Saturn (SàSW)

Planets you can see in the Morning – Venus (E)


Mercury – Is technically between Venus and the eastern horizon in the morning, but you’ll need binoculars and a sky app to find it.

Venus – Rises around 4:30am.  Bright and visible about 20˚ high in East before sunrise all month, though it is on its way toward the horizon each day, and will stop being visible in October.

Mars – Pretty dim, but it’s there in the eastern sky low on the horizon toward the end of the month when it gets pretty close to Venus.

Saturn – Look S after sunset and find the bright light above and between Scorpius and Sagittarius. It will move toward the SW, setting around midnight in early September and 10pm in late September.

Jupiter – After sunset, you might be able to catch Jupiter about 10˚ up the sky, but after a week or so it’s too close to the Sun from our perspective, so you won’t be able to see it anymore until late November mornings.


Full Moon – 6th (Visible all night)

Last Quarter Moon – 13th (Visible from midnight into the morning)

17th – 18thClose Encounter – Moon, Venus – Get up after 5:00am but before sunrise (6:47am) and find a very thin crescent Moon in the East with Venus about 7˚ down and to the left on the morning of the 17th, with Mercury and Mars visible in binoculars about 9-11˚ below Venus and a little to the left.  In the next morning, the Moon will position itself in between Venus and Mars.

New Moon – 20th (darkest skies) 

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.

22ndClose Encounter – Moon, Jupiter – Look WSW after sunset to see Jupiter 7˚ down and to the right of the then crescent Moon.  Get out before 8:00pm that night when they set.

26thClose Encounter – Moon, Saturn – Look S after sunset to find a waxing crescent Moon with Saturn 3˚ down and to the left.

First Quarter Moon – 28th (Visible until midnight)


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.


Summer Constellations: Lyra, Cygnus, Aquila, Delphinus

Look straight 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.



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