Monday, August 26, 2013

September hosts multiple “sky events”

It is unlikely that the “authorities” will let me outside after sunset to view the western sky, but perhaps you can, wherever you are on the evening  of September 8. According to Astronomy Magazine, the period right after sunset is an optimum time to see Venus and Jupiter.

If you look to the west-southwest about 45 minutes after sunset on September 8 (Sunday night), you will see the waxing crescent moon. The planet, Venus, will appear as the brightest object very close to the crescent moon. Above and slightly to the left of the moon will appear Saturn. Nearby stars form the constellations Virgo and Libra. Each night Venus and Saturn appear closer in the western sky.

If you are an early bird, and get up before daylight, you can see Jupiter and Mars, the Red Planet, rising in the east. Jupiter rises above the horizon around 2AM on September 1, and rises a little earlier each week throughout the month. You can’t mistake Jupiter for any other celestial object. It is brighter than any other point of light at that time. The smaller Mars rises later, after Jupiter, and appears low in the eastern sky by 4 AM September 1, then climbs higher each week. You can tell Mars by its red clay hue.

If you have a telescope you might be able to spot Comet ISON toward the east about two hours before sunrise. An asteroid named “324 Bamberga” will also make an appearance in September, closely approaching Earth on September 13. At 140 miles wide, that’s a darned big rock! Astronomers say there’s no risk of Earth getting hit by Bamberga, thank goodness. It is in an elliptical orbit that brings a close encounter every 22 years . We won’t see it again until 2035.

Since childhood I’ve always been fascinated by the stars and planets in the night sky. When we were young my two brothers and I spent many hours observing through a telescope we’d gotten as a Christmas gift from our parents. There aren’t many places  darker than an orange grove in Florida, far from city lights. 

I pray that one day I will be able to do that again. In the meantime, let me know if you see any of these sights in September.


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