Every month, AY About You outlines the night sky in these easily digestible guides. And stargazing in September is another one for the books.
This month features local astrophotography from Arkansan Tony Milligan. You can find more of his spectacular photos on his website, Captured in Time.
Full Moon: Sep. 2*
Third Quarter: Sep. 10
New Moon: Sep. 17
First Quarter: Sep. 23
*This year’s full moon of September is simply a Corn Moon, for the crops that come to harvest this time of year. Most years, the September full moon is known as the Harvest Moon, but every three years, the Harvest Moon falls in October (when it is closer to the equinox). This is one of those years.
No major showers this month, but be sure to check back in October for an unusual meteor shower that is best viewed in the early evening, rather than the early morning. It is a much more accessible event that you do not have to wait up all night to fully enjoy.
Planets and Special Events
Sep. 2: Venus at Highest Point in Morning Sky
In the (very) early morning hours of this month, Venus will be the star of the eastern sky. On Sep. 2, it will reach its highest point in our sky at 42 degrees, making this one of the most opportune times to gaze on our next-door neighbor. Look to the east from around 3 a.m.
Sep. 11: Neptune at Opposition
This month, Neptune is at opposition with the Sun and at perigee (closest point) with the Earth. This is one of the best times of the year to view our distant neighbor, but without the help of a telescope or binoculars, it will barely appear as more than just a speck of light in an already crowded sky. Look to the constellation Aquarius in the southeast at around 9 p.m.
Sep. 26: Mercury at Highest Point in Evening Sky
Just a few weeks after Venus’ morning high rise, Mercury climbs to a peak of its own in the evening hours. On Sep. 26, it will reach a point 11 degrees above our horizon. Look to the southwest at nightfall.
Sep. 22: September Equinox
The first day of autumn for us in the northern hemisphere (and the first day of spring for those in the southern part of the globe) will occur on Sep. 22 this year. The September, or Autumnal, Equinox is when the sun passes directly across the celestial equator during the earth’s daily revolution, meaning that nearly every part of the world will receive almost exactly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night.
*The word equinox is derived from the Latin words aequus (equal) and nox (night).
In the News
Next spring is going to be a busy time for Mars. In close succession, three spacecraft will arrive at the planet, joining the dozen or so craft already circling Mars. Two of the spacecraft were launched in the past couple of weeks by newcomers to martian exploration: the United Arab Emirates’ Al-Amal (meaning Hope) and China’s Tianwen-1 (which means Question to Heaven).
The third vessel will be NASA’s Mars 2020, containing the Perseverance rover, which just took off successfully from Florida. While this rover will be just one of many on the red planet, it is our best bet for finding life there for the time being.
No public events this month. Stay home and stay well.
If you’re still itching for more space to curb your boredom this month, give Celestia and Stellarium a try. Both are free to use and provide unique and interactive experiences with the stars, planets and more.
The best stargazing results are always going to be under the darkest of skies. So, if you can, find a place as far away from city lights as possible when stargazing in September.