Here’s what you can expect to see in the skies this month:
Leo, Lion, stalks the western horizon. They set early. Spica, in Virgo, lies low in the southwest. Silver Saturn leads huge Scorpius into the southwest. Fiery Antares, a red supergiant larger than our sun, is the heart beating in the Scorpion’s torso.
Outer planets dim blue, Neptune drifts high across the southeast in Aquarius, and blue-green Uranus rises in the southeast in Pisces, Fish. Fomalhaut twinkles below Neptune. Very dim Pluto (14th magnitude) lies near the Teaspoon in the south, visible in large telescopes. The Sagittarian Teapot (center of our Milky Way Galaxy) occupies the south, below the Teaspoon.
In binoculars find a myriad of deep sky objects shimmering in our galaxy. Westbound Hercules leads bight Vega, in Lyra the Harp, and the vast Summer Triangle overhead. Cygnus, Swan, soars within the Triangle. A colorful double star is the eye of the Swan. Arcturus sparkles in the west. The Big Dipper swings low in the northwest. Its bowl always faces Polaris, North Star. The Little Dipper’s handle seems to be attached to Polaris. Aries, Ram, chases Pegasus, Winged Horse, higher in the east The Royal Family arrives in the northeast.
Sept. 1: In evening dusk, Mercury hovers near the western horizon, left of the Lion.
Sept. 4: By nightfall, Mercury reaches its highest altitude, only a few degrees above the western horizon. This is due to the planet’s tight orbit close to the sun.
Sept. 15: The young crescent moon lies near Spica in the southwest. In binoculars check out the dark Earthshine on the lunar surface.
Sept. 18: At dusk the moon is 3 degrees from Saturn.
Sept. 27: The Harvest Supermoon will be closest to Earth at 9:46 p.m. by 221,753 miles and 13 percent larger than the full Supermoon of April 4 at moonset before sunrise. A total lunar eclipse will occur from 10:11 p.m. to 11:23 p.m. The partial-eclipse phase will begin 9:07 p.m. and end at 12:27 a.m. Monday. The next total lunar eclipse will occur Jan. 31.
Sept. 28: Tonight the bright moon floats 1 degree from Uranus.
Before 6 a.m. brilliant Venus, Morning Star, glows in the east 9 degrees above Mars in the head of Leo, Lion. The delicate Seven Sisters (Pleiades star cluster) lead Taurus, Bull to the Zenith. Ruddy Aldebaran (Bull’s red eye) winks from the V-shaped Hyades (Bull’s face).
Bright Capella guides the Charioteer higher in the northeast. The Gemini Twins: Castor & Pollux stand on the northeastern horizon. Orion, Hunter, climbs higher in the east followed by Procyon, Little Dog. Brilliant blue Sirius sparkles in the southeast in Orion’s Big Dog. Aries, Ram chases Pegasus, Winged Horse westward. The Royal Family drifts toward the northwest: King Cepheus, Queen Cassiopeia, daughter Andromeda and Perseus.
Sept. 2: Before dawn, Venus and Mars make their closest pass in the east. Venus in Cancer and Mars in the Lion.
Sept. 5: Last Quarter Moon occurs 5:54 a.m. and rises in the predawn.
Sept. 7: At dawn, Jupiter rises onto the eastern horizon.
Sept. 9: Before dawn, the waning moon climbs 5 degrees right of the Beehive cluster in Cancer, Crab.
Sept. 10: By 6 a.m. the old moon rises between Venus and Mars in the east.
Sept. 13: New Moon occurs 2:41 a.m.
Sept. 21: First Quarter Moon phase 4:59 a.m.
Sept. 23: Autumnal Equinox occurs 4:21 a.m. when the southbound sun reaches the Equator. Day and night hours are about equal for 10 days. Sun rises due east and sets due west.
Sept. 25: At dawn Mars and the star Regulus in the Lion are 1 degree apart.
Sept. 30: Before 6 a.m. Venus leads the Lion higher in the east. Regulus lies above Mars followed by Jupiter.
Barb Yager is a member of the Southern Cross Astronomical Society in Miami: 305-661-1375, scas.org.
8-11 p.m., Friday, Sept. 18: Florida International University research astronomer and honorary SCAS member James R. Webb will reveal his completion of a hi-tech triangle of research telescopes. Students and faculty from the 10 colleges in the Southeast Association of Research Astronomers will have access to this equipment. The free program takes place at the FIU Physics building CP-145 lecture hall, Modesto Maidique Campus, 11200 SW Eighth St. Park in visitor/faculty space in the campus garage. Follow the SCAS signs into CP-145.
9-11:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 27: The astronomical society will host two lunar eclipse watches. They are at the SCAS Observatory, 23325 SW 217th Ave., Homestead, and Bill Sadowski Park, on Southwest 176th Street about a half-mile west of Old Cutler Road, Palmetto Bay. No parking on private property. At both sites bring a picnic, chairs, bug repellent, binoculars, telescopes. No lasers, lights, litter, alcohol or pets. Weather permitting.