AstroCal – September 2022
Before we get too deep into the fall observing highlights, let us give two thumbs up and a generous pat on the back to all of the intrepid photographers who have been posting auroral displays this summer. There have been some spectacular displays of northern lights and we need to tip the hat to those who trot off in the late night and early morning hours to snap pictures of the celestial fireworks. Thank you for sharing your beautiful work particularly those featuring the Lake Superior shoreline! This might also be a good time to mention the faint Zodiacal Light that should be visible from September 24 to October 7. According to the Abrams planetarium, “Look towards the east 1 ½ hours before sunrise, To see the Zodiacal Light, you’ll have to observe from a dark site with no light pollution. The Zodiacal Light is caused by sunlight reflecting off of dust in the plan of the solar system.” It is hard enough to see, we will call this our monthly observing challenge.
As for the rest of the month, evening planets are again a viewing option. Saturn is easy to see in the southeast at mid-twilight all this month. Telescopic views will show the Rings tilted a an angle of 15 degrees. In retrograde motion until October 22, one can track its backward motion as Saturn’s distance to the star Iota Cap closes from 2 deg 3 min to 1 degree by month’s end. Jupiter rises in the east 41 minutes after sunset on Sept 1 and 11 min before sunset on Sept 30. Jupiter will be at opposition (located in our sky directly opposite from the Sun) on Sept 26 while Asteroid Juno (magnitude 7.7) will be at opposition on Sept 7.
The morning planets will include Venus, Mars, and Jupiter. Venus will be very low in the ENE and be lost in the Sun’s glare later in the month. Venus reaches superior conjunction
(located between the Earth and the Sun) on October 22 before re-emerging as an evening planet in December. Mars starts the month close to the Pleiades star cluster in Taurus the Bull and will move closer to the star Aldebaran, ending the month 11 degrees east of the star. Jupiter will drop lower in the western sky each morning.
The Moon will have already reached the First Quarter phase by Sept 3 with the Full, Last Quarter, and New Moon taking place on Sept 10, 17, and 25. The last event of note for September will be the Autumnal Equinox on Sept 22 (9:04 p.m. EDT) when Autumn officially begins in the northern hemisphere. The term ‘equinox’ translates as ‘equal night’ and it happens in the fall and spring when the vertical ray of the Sun crosses the Earth’s equator. During this time of the year, every location on the planet experiences 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. We will be officially halfway to the shortest daylight period of the year in December, but there will still be ample hours of daylight to enjoy the beautiful fall weather.
Compiled by Ken Raisanen of WOAS-FM – information provided by Abrams Planetarium Sky Calendar, Michigan State University. More information and subscription information can be found on their website at http://abramsplanetarium.org/skycalendar/ or on Twitter at http://twitter.com/AbramsSkyNotes. Yearly subscriptions cost $12 and can be started anytime.
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