September Skies - Mercury is visible in the west

James Edgar

The Moon begins October as a thin sliver in the western horizon. On the 3rd, Jupiter gets a visit from Luna, only 1.9 degrees away. On the 5th, Saturn is involved in a conjunction in the Southern Hemisphere, where the Moon slowly covers the Ringed Planet, then about an hour later, it reappears at the Moon’s opposite limb. It’s seeing the Solar System in motion in real time. The next day, Pluto is occulted, again in the south, but a much more difficult observation, given the Dwarf Planet’s tiny size. This observation would take a few day’s planning and a good telescope to ensure Pluto was in the field of view. The Moon is full on the 13th. The evening of the 14th sees Uranus within 4 degrees of our satellite; on the 19th the Moon is 1.7 degrees south of M35; and on the 22nd, 0.7 degrees north of the Beehive Cluster (M44). In the early morning of the 26th, Mars and the Moon are separated by 5 degrees. In rapid succession at the end of the month, Venus is 4 degrees south of the Moon on the 29th in the western evening sky, with Mercury tagging along to the south, then Jupiter is joined by our satellite on the 31st. Could be a great photo opportunity.

Mercury is visible in the west all through the month, with Venus nearby for most of it. Watch for the grouping of three–Mercury, Venus, and the Moon on the 29th.

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Venus hugs the horizon for most of October, as the ecliptic’s angle favours southern observers. See the trio mentioned above on the 29th.

Mars emerges in the eastern morning twilight around mid-month. Joined by the Moon on the 26th.

Jupiter is off in the west at sundown, low in the sky. The gas giant is joined by the Moon on the 3rd and again on the 31st.

Saturn rises in the afternoon, becoming visible early in the evening and setting near midnight. Watch for the close pass of the Moon on the 5th.

Uranus is in opposition on the 28th, rising at sunset, and setting at sunup. Visible throughout the month in the south, it can be seen with the naked eye, if you know where to look. Print off a star chart for a particular night and give it a try. The planet’s blue-green colour and non-twinkling appearance are sure giveaways.

Neptune is just past opposition, and visible for most of the evening.

The Orionid meteors peak in the evening of October 21.

The zodiacal light is visible in the east before morning twilight for the first and last weeks of the month.

James Edgar has had an interest in the night sky all his life. He joined The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada in 2000, was National President for two terms, is now the Editor of the renowned Observer’s Handbook and is Production Manager of the bi-monthly RASC Journal. The IAU named asteroid 1995 XC5 “(22421) Jamesedgar” in his honour.



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