Welcome to the September night sky. This is a month of change, when the Sun is heading down south in the northern hemisphere sky, and this makes the nights draw in at their fastest rate of the year.
This year, the Autumn Equinox occurs on the 23rd. This is when the Sun crosses the celestial equator. At this time, the days and nights are approximately the same duration all over the world.
September has only two meteor showers, both of which are rather weak. The first is on September 1, the Aurigids, followed by the Epsilon Perseids on September 9. This last shower has the disadvantage of occurring close to the full Moon time, when only the brightest meteors can usually be seen.
The gas giant planet Jupiter is now getting close to opposition in the constellation of Pisces, and it happens on September 26. Jupiter is easy to find as it’s located at the moment in a star-poor region of the sky. Jupiter is a fine object seen in a small telescope or even a strong binocular, with the four Galilean moons changing position from night to night.
The ringed planet Saturn is now one month beyond opposition in the constellation of Capricornus and close to full Moon will be seen next to Saturn on the night of the 8th.
During early September evenings, the famous summer triangle will be seen setting over in the west, while over in the east the autumn and winter constellations will be seen to be rising.
The constellation of Taurus, with its star cluster of The Seven Sisters, is seen low on the horizon. The appearance of this group of stars before midnight heralds the oncoming winter.
At this time of the year, the constellation of Auriga rises in the northeast with its brightest star Capella. When this star is seen low in the horizon, it will flash with all the colours of the rainbow, and it could be mistaken for a UFO as it is a strange sight for those that are not familiar with the night sky.
Overhead in September nights, we have the constellation of Cassiopeia deep in the autumn Milky Way. This constellation is in the shape of “W” and lies just north of Andromeda and south of Cepheus.
The Moon is at its first quarter on the 3rd, full Moon on the 10th, last quarter on the 17th and new Moon on September 25.
Clive Jackson is the director of the Camera Obscura – Tavira EYE attraction, located near the Castle of Tavira. Specialising in education and public outreach.
281 322 527 | [email protected] www.torredetavira.com
To see the September Sky Map click on the pdf link below