The moon starts this month at full capacity. A few days later, on September 5th, the moon covered Mars for viewers in the Southern Hemisphere – a very close association for Northern Hemisphere observers. On September 11th, Luna in the third quadrant travels less than half a degree south of the block, M35, in the eastern morning sky for early risers. On the morning of September 13th, Venus lies four degrees south of the moon. By September 25, Jupiter is 1.4 degrees north from the first quarter of the moon, while a little later, Saturn is three degrees north. Jupiter and Saturn are gradually closing the gap, which will peak at the closest approach, on December 21st. The moon has visited Neptune and Uranus on September 2 and 7, respectively.
Mercury is gradually moving away from the Sun in what will be its largest east elongation (GEE) in the western evening sky. Unfortunately, the ecliptic angle makes this apparition unfavorable to northern observers, so Mercury is embracing the horizon at sunset – a difficult note. In the early morning of September 21, the fast planet rose 0.3 degrees above the bright star, Spica, in the constellation Virgo (Virgo).
Venus rules the morning sky above the horizon, radiating like a lighthouse before sunrise and often depicted as a UFO by ignorance. The waning crescent will pass by September 13th.
Mars is at its best appearance in the 1920s, as it rises at sunset and sets at dawn. The moon joins the red planet on the evenings of September 5 and September 6, and it is occulted in South America. Mars appears to be stationary on September 9, after which it begins a retrograde motion – apparently moving west. This strange behavior greatly puzzled ancient astronomers, giving rise to all sorts of strange ideas. What they fail to take into account is Earth’s own motion, faster than Mars, so we overlooked it during opposition. It was Copernicus and Galileo who proposed that the sun, not the Earth, is the center of the solar system.
Jupiter was in retrograde motion and became stationary on September 13 the beginning of the progressive movement against the background of the stars of Sagittarius. Watch the moon’s passage by September 25th.
Saturn, too, was retrograde, and begins the progressive movement on September 29. The moon joins the ring planet on September 25, just two degrees south.
Uranus rises before midnight. On the night of September 7, the moon is directly south of the blue-green gas planet, with the Pleiades and Hades clusters eastward.
Neptune rises around 8 pm, and the moon joins the evening of September 2.
The autumnal equinox occurs on September 22 at 1:31 UTC (early in the morning in North America).
The light of the zodiac can be seen in the east just before sunrise in the last two weeks of the month.
James Edgar has been interested in the night sky all his life. He joined the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada in 2000, served two terms as national president, is now editor of the Observer Handbook, and Production Director for the bi-monthly RASC magazine. The International Astronomical Union named the 1995 XC5 asteroid “(22421) Jamesedgar” in his honor.
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