Highlights of the September Night Sky
Brought to you by: Bob Haskins @ Waterville Estates
Do your part and help preserve the dark skies that we are fortunate to have in Waterville Estates. Turn off all unnecessary outdoor lighting.
Go outside tonight and be a stargazer.
The Planets: “Evenings on the Ecliptic” The planets follow an imaginary path in the sky called the ecliptic.
Fall is Here! Another great month for planet watching!
Venus: The good news is at the beginning of the month our sister planet shines at a dazzling -4.8 in the west. However, as the month progresses it sinks lower toward the horizon making it harder to see at dusk.
Jupiter: Look to the SSW at dusk and you will see Jupiter shinning brightly. The planet will set around 10 pm around the beginning of the month and around 8 at the end.
Saturn: Look for Saturn in the south. The ringed planet shines just above the “Teapot” constellation.
Mars: The “Red” planet begins the month shinning brightly at magnitude at -2.1 in the SSE. Mars is still closest to the Earth than it has been in 13 years.
Stars and Constellations:
The brilliant stars of Summer are peaking. Look for my favorite summer star alignment, the “Summer Triangle”, which is high in the sky one hour after sunset. The three stars making up the triangle are “Vega”, the brightest of the three, “Deneb” and “Altair”. Vega is almost directly overhead and forms part of the constellation Lyra. As the sky grows darker you will be able to make out the wing of the “Swan” and it’s long neck and Deneb forming the tail. The constellation appears to be flying south through the heart of our own “Milky Way” galaxy. Flying in the opposite direction on a collision course with the Swan is the constellation “ Aquila” or the Eagle with Altair forming part of the wing. The Eagle, according to Greek legend, was the bird of Zeus the king of the ancient gods. In 1918 a nova appeared in the Eagle constellation that outshone Sirius, our brightest star in our sky, for a short while.
Look to the north for the “Big Dipper”, which is fairly easy to spot this time of year. Remember to follow the handle of the dipper,which is curved, and it will lead you to our brightest star in the summer sky, Arcturus.
Look to the south to view the constellation “Sagittarius” the archer which today most people refer to as “The Teapot”. It is located low in the south and it actually looks like a teapot complete with a handle, spout and lid. Also to the right of the “Teapot” see if you can spot “Scorpius”, with its evil red eye and stinger. Between the Teapot and Scorpius lies the center of our home galaxy, the Milky Way.
Yes there is water on the moon. Long ago we labeled the dark areas on the moon as “seas” believing them to be oceans. However, when the first Apollo astronauts brought back samples of the moon’s soil they proved bone dry. However, the samples were recently analyzed with up to date technology which proved that the samples did indeed contain water. Recently, the Chandrayaan1 moon orbiter has provided strong evidence for deposits of exposed water-ice in permanently shadowed craters at the lunar poles.
Factoid of the Month:
The supermoon is a made-up term. It is not an astronomical term and there is no technical definition of it. The supermoon was actually coined by an astrologer in the 1970’s, not by a scientist. The term has come to loosely mean when the full moon is closest to the Earth along its orbit. This definition can vary however. It could mean a supermoon could occur several times a year or once every 14 months or longer, depending on ones definition.
Astronomy Websites to explore:
- heavens-above.com (satellites that are passing overhead)
- com (The evening sky map for the month)
- nasa.gov (sign up for alerts for the International Space Station as it passes overhead)