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 discover the night sky.
The Planets: “Evenings on the Ecliptic” The planets follow an imaginary path in the sky called the ecliptic.
Dusk and into the night:
Venus: The bright planet is back, but barely. Look for it just above the western horizon at dusk towards the end of the month. However don’t wait too long, it sets 30 minutes after the Sun.
Jupiter: Look for the brilliant planet in the SSW right above the constellation Scorpius and the red star” Antares”-often referred to as the “rival of Mars”. Jupiter is highest in the sky at nightfall which is great for the early to bed people.
Saturn: Look to the left of Jupiter and down a bit and you will spot Saturn. It is slightly to the left of the constellation Sagittarius or the “Teapot”. See if you can recognize the shape of the teapot.
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.
It was a close call. Last month a large asteroid roughly 100 wide and moving quickly along a path that brought it within 73,000 km from the Earth. It was very close, astronomers say. The problem is no one saw it coming. “It snuck up on us quickly” said Richard Brown, a professor of astronomy from Australia. It was the largest asteroid to pass this close to Earth in years.
The last -minute detection is yet another sign of how much still remains unknown about space and a sobering remainder of the very real threat asteroids can pose said Paul Duffy, a lead scientist at the Royal Institution of Australia.
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)