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David Mayeux
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Current Astronomy "Headlines"


First Quarter
September 2


Full Moon
September 8


Last Quarter September 15


New Moon
September 24

Listed below are notable astronomical events coming up for the month of
September 2014:

Naked-Eye Planets

Mercury
In September, Mercury begins the month in the evening sky, close to 20 degrees from the Sun. Unfortunately, almost none of that translates to height above the Sun over the western horizon after sunset. Therefore Mercury will be very difficult to see at that time, and indeed throughout the rest of the month. Although Mercury reaches greatest elongation on the 21st, binoculars and a VERY flat western horizon will probably be required to view Mercury within the fringe of the light of sunset for the month.

Venus
Venus is in the morning sky all month long in September, starting in the constellation Leo. Venus will start the month rising very low over the eastern horizon before the sky lightens from dawn. Seeing Venus will become more difficult all month long as Venus rises ever later, and therefore deeper in the Sun’s glare. By the end of the month Venus rises in Virgo and less than 10 degrees away from the Sun. This will probably be the last month for a while that we will be able to see Venus with the naked eye in the morning sky before superior conjunction.

Mars
In September, Mars is rather low (less than about 20 degrees) over the WSW horizon about an hour after sunset at the beginning of the month. At this time it is around 6 degrees east of the planet Saturn and pulling farther away from the ringed planet all month long. On the 13th Mars moves into the constellation Scorpius, and on the evening of the 17th, Mars moves into about a 1 degree conjunction with the star Delta Scorpii, or Dschubba. On the evenings of the 27th and 28th, Mars makes its closest approach to the bright star Antares, the heart of the Scorpion, and the “Rival of Mars” – note the stars reddish color! It is similar, although not identical, to Mars’ color! On the 29th the young crescent Moon passes about 7 degrees north of Mars, and the Red Planet finishes the month about 3-4 degrees north of Antares, very low over the WSW horizon, and setting at about 10:00 p.m.

Jupiter
Jupiter starts September rising a little before 4:30 a.m. in Cancer, just a little east of the Beehive Cluster M44. On the morning of the 20th, the waning crescent Moon bypasses Jupiter about 7 degrees to the south. By month’s end, Jupiter rises at about 3 a.m.

Saturn
In September, Saturn begins the month about 6 degrees WNW of the planet Mars in the constellation Libra. Asteroids Vesta and Ceres are somewhat farther north than Saturn by about 5 and 10 degrees respectively. While the swifter Mars pulls away from Saturn through the constellations all month long, Ceres approaches Saturn in the same time span! On the evening of the 27th the Moon, Saturn, and Ceres (although not visible to the naked eye) all form a very small triangle only about 2 degrees to a side, or less! Saturn ends the month less than a degree away from the tiny Ceres, setting at about 9 p.m. This will probably be the last full month in which we will be able to spot Saturn in the evening sky until next year.

Telescopic Planets

Uranus
In early September, Uranus is rising in the evening sky at about 9:15 p.m. in the constellation Pisces. On the 10th of the month, Uranus is overpowered by the much brighter waning Full Moon, only 3 degrees to the north of the planet. By the end of the month, Uranus rises at around 7:15 p.m., shortly after the Sun sets.

Neptune
Neptune is in the constellation Aquarius in the month of September, already arisen after sunset, and visible with the right optical aid virtually all night long for the whole month! The nearly Full Moon makes its closest approach to Neptune for the month on the evening of the 7th, only about 6 degrees NW of the distant blue giant. By the end of the month, Neptune is already modestly high in the SE sky at an hour after sunset.

Dwarf Planets

Ceres
Ceres is in the constellation Libra, roughly 10 degrees NNW of Saturn at the beginning of September. Although Ceres loses ground against the sunset, it overtakes the much slower planet Saturn all month long. On the evening of the 27th of the month, the young crescent Moon passes close to the largest asteroid and Saturn in a tight triangle, and at month’s end, Ceres sets with Saturn at about 9 p.m. Optical aid will be needed to spot the asteroid / dwarf planet.

Pluto
In September, Pluto is in the constellation Sagittarius, slightly before meridian at about an hour after sunset. On the evenings of the 3rd and 4th the waxing gibbous Moon bypasses closest to Pluto for the month. At month’s end, Pluto sets at a little after 11:30 p.m. Optical aid will be even more desperately needed to view Pluto than was so for Ceres! A minimum of an 8 or 10 inch aperture telescope and a pristine night of viewing conditions is required for live viewing.

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Meteor Showers - http://amsmeteors.org/showers.html

Viewable Comets - http://cometography.com/current_comets.html

Special events - http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/highlights

 

 

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