Highlights of the September Night Sky
By Bob Haskins
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 Summer Stars @ Waterville Estates Sunday the 3rd at 8:00 pm
I will be giving my annual “Green Laser” star show presentation, behind the Center near the picnic benches on Sunday the 3rd . Hopefully the skies will be clear.
The Planets: “Evenings on the Ecliptic” The planets follow an imaginary path in the sky called the ecliptic.
Jupiter: Shines at its dimmest for the year but still very bright low in the WSW at dusk.
Saturn: Shines in the SSW one hour after the Sun sets. Look for it 25 degrees above the horizon, which is roughly 3 fists at arms length. The star Antares “The rival of Mars” is one fist to the lower right.
Venus: Visible all month at dawn in the east.
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.
I hope all of you caught the partial eclipse in NH last month and it wet your appetite to witness a total eclipse. Arlene and I were in South Carolina to see the “Great American Eclipse”. It was an unbelievable experience to witness our Moon slowly cover the Sun, the darkness that comes, the street lights coming on,etc. We in NH are in luck however because in 2024 a total eclipse will occur here.
Factoid of the Month:
The scale used to describe brightness is called “apparent magnitude”. It was invented by Hipparchus over 2000 years ago and has stood the test of time. The brightest stars he referred to as first magnitude and the dimmer ones he called sixth magnitude. The scale has been tweaked in recent times. Arcturus has a rating of 0 and Sirius a -1. The more minus the number is the brighter the object.
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)