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Astronomy

September Skies

Evening Planets:

Mercury puts on a rather poor showing during the 2nd half of the month. The planet should be visible around 11 September, very low in SW. The planet never really gets that high up and is stuck in the bright Dusk twilight. The planet sets about 30 minutes after Sunset and that’s why the planet will be hard to find and see.

Jupiter and Saturn are up in the South in the evening Dusk twilight. Both planets are rather low to the horizon and in the eastern part of the Constellation of Sagittarius. Both planets lose some brightness as the month progresses. Both planets are very slowly starting to move towards each other. However, you will have to wait until December 2020 to see the “Great Conjunction” of these two planets.

Mars has none of the problems of the other evening planets. Mars is now rising in the East about 2.5 hours after Sunset during the 1st week of September. The planet will have a large increase in brightness as the month progresses. Mars puts on a fine evening show for the months of September and October. By the end of the month, the planet is rising about 1 hour after Sunset and is now the brightest evening planet. Mars is even brighter than Jupiter.

Morning Planet:

The sole, bright morning planet, Venus manages to rise about 3 hours before Sunrise all month long. The Planet does lose some brightness as the month progresses. The planet manages to hold onto its altitude for this month. Venus will be up fairly high in the East before Dawn breaks.

2 Sep Full Moon

5 Sep Waning Gibbous Moon just below Mars, Late Evening

14 Sep Crescent Moon below Venus, Dawn

15 Sep Crescent Moon above the bright star Regulus, Dawn

22 Sep Autumn Equinox

23 Sep 1st Quarter Moon

24 Sep Waxing Gibbous Moon lower right of Jupiter, Dusk

25 Sep Waxing Gibbous Moon lower left of Saturn, Dusk

September’s Unfavorable Moons:

If you recall back in March / April 2020, we had some very favorable Moons to observe. This month we have the opposite situation; we have some unfavorable Moons. The Full Moon on 2 September is an unfavorable Full Moon. This Full Moon happens early in the month and is too far away from the Autumnal Equinox to get the title of Harvest Moon. This Full Moon is a lot further away from the Earth than normal. Thus, this Full Moon appears a bit smaller and dimmer than normal. Also, this Full Moon doesn’t get that high up in the sky.

Things are even worst for the 1st Quarter Moon on 23 Sep 2020. This Moon is also smaller and dimmer than a regular 1st Quarter Moon. Plus, this 1st Quarter Moon has a bad position (low) in the sky. This Moon will be really low to the horizon and may be blocked by tall objects on the horizon. If you think these Moons are unfavorable; just wait until next month.

Mars Fine Evening Apparition:

The Red Planet puts on a fine short evening display during the months of Sep – Oct 2020. Mars has a relatively close approach to Earth during these two months. In fact, this will be the best showing of Mars for the next 15 years. You will not see Mars this big and bright until 2035. The planet is in the star poor region of the Constellation of Pisces and will have no bright stars nearby to contend with. The planet has a rather high-altitude sky position which will help with the telescopic observations of the planet. Mars is the only planet (besides Earth) that we have a reasonable chance of seeing some surface details in a telescope. Also, you can compare the color of the Planet Mars to some of the colors of the Autumn leaves.

Gary T. Nowak

Vermont Astronomical Society