September is a terrific time to go stargazing. The worst of the summer heat is gone. You can linger under the Moon and stars at night. Let’s explore!
Day Versus Night
You may notice that it is now darker in the morning when you get up for school. This is because dawn begins later!
Also, it gets darker earlier at night now. Sometimes this is nice because you can get to sleep more easily.
Fall begins on Monday, September 23. On this day, the hours of daylight and darkness are approximately equal.
After that, the days grow even shorter and the nights get even longer until Christmas!
The Full Moon
Full Moon occurs is on September 13 and 14. It is called the Harvest Moon because it rises near the time when the Sun sets for several days in a row. This gives farmers extra late light for harvesting their crops. See more about the Harvest Moon.
There are only two planets that are easy to see this month. They are Jupiter and Saturn. Unfortunately, you can not see the other planets at this time of year because they are lost in the glare of the bright Sun.
- Jupiter, the King of Planets, is the brightest object in the sky after the Moon right now. Jupiter appears as darkness falls – brighter than any star – and stays out until late night! Look for a bright “star” in the southwestern sky all month.
- After you find Jupiter at at nightfall, look for the Ringed Planet, Saturn! Hold your fist at arm’s length. Saturn is roughly three fist-widths to the east of Jupiter. Because Saturn is the only bright-looking “star” to occupy this part of the sky, you should be able to find it. It’s not as bright as Jupiter but it’s in the lower part of the southwestern sky.
Look ahead! On October 3, watch for a crescent Moon to appear as darkness falls and then for planet Jupiter to appear right next to the bottom tip! It will be a striking sight!
The Autumn Star
Look for the “autumn star” which is named Fomalhaut. Just face south around 9pm look towards the night sky. Fomalhaut is the brightest star in front of you as you face south.
It’s typically less than a third of the way up in the sky and the brightest star in a dark patch of sky. It’s far to the left of the two bright planets, Jupiter and Saturn.
The Big Dipper in October by Marc Toso of the website AncientSkys.com.
The Big Dipper
Can you still see the Big Dipper? In the autumn, look north and low in the sky. The Big Dipper looks like a spoon resting along the horizon, ready to catch those fall leaves!
If you live in the northern U.S. or Canada, the Big Dipper is always above the horizon.
If you live in the southern U.S., it may be below the horizon but you could see it appear in the hours before dawn (when you are probably sleeping!).
Enjoy the stargazing!