It’s great to head outside at this time of year. The sun sets earlier, the evenings are not too cold and the late summer sounds fill the air. Let’s check out the night sky highlights for September:
Planets & the Moon
As we head through late summer into early autumn, our two largest planets are easy to spot in the southern sky, after sunset. Jupiter is brilliant and will certainly catch your eye. Saturn is to the left of Jupiter, not as bright. Saturn’s north pole is tipped toward Earth by over 25 degrees, giving us the best views of the rings until 2030.
This is a great time to get out your backyard telescope or head to your local astronomy club observing site. Venus and Mercury make an appearance late in September. On September 30th, Venus will be 1 degree above the western horizon, 30 minutes after sunset.
Venus will be easier to spot, with binoculars, then Mercury, which will be upper left of Venus. Neptune reaches peak visibility on Sept. 9-10 and will be less than a degree apart from 4th magnitude star Phi Aquari, in the constellation Aquarius. The moon will reach first quarter on Sept. 5 and form a beautiful triangle with Jupiter and the star Antares. The moon will continue to move eastward past Jupiter and Saturn each night through Sept. 8th.
The heart of Scorpius, Antares, is down to the right of Jupiter. Saturn is beside the teapot pattern of Sagittarius. Looking overhead, you will see three bright stars, Vega, Deneb and Altair, which form the Summer Triangle. Turning to the opposite part of the sky, you will spot the Big Dipper pattern low in the northern sky. Use the two stars at the end of the cu, to draw a line to the north star. Right of the north star, the “W” shape in the stars, is the constellation Cassiopeia. A little more to the right, the four stars you see form the Great Square of Pegasus.
For most of us who have lights in our neighborhoods, we can’t enjoy the splendor of the Milky Way stretching across our late summer skies. Grab your binoculars, lay back and scan from in between Jupiter and Saturn, up through the Summer Triangle, and down through Cassiopeia. You will be surprised how many stars you can see! Don’t forget to look at the Harvest Moon too.
For further night sky details, maps and audio, visit my website www.starrytrails.com.
Questions and answers
Q. When is the Harvest Moon?
A. The Harvest Moon is the full moon that falls closest to the Autumnal Equinox or the first day of autumn. This year, the Harvest Moon is on the night of Sept. 14th, and the first day of autumn is Sept. 23. Occasionally, the Harvest Moon falls nearer to the full moon in October, occurring anywhere from two weeks before or two weeks after the equinox.
Visit the Hoover-Price Planetarium
The Hoover-Price Planetarium will present the “The Universe at Large,” along with a look at the night sky, at 1 p.m. Saturdays and on 2 p.m. Sundays.
The planetarium is located inside the McKinley Presidential Library & Museum, 800 McKinley Monument Drive, N.W., in Canton.
Public shows are at 1 p.m. every weekday through Labor Day. The planetarium seats 65, and admission is included with admission to the museum. Children must be 5 years or older to attend, and the first Monday of the month program at 2 p.m. is for adults.
For more information, call the museum at 330-455-7043.