When Fall begins

September is full of interesting astronomical events including the Autumn Equinox.


This month began on a bright note, with a full moon on September 2 known to early Native American tribes as the Corn Moon. This was because corn is harvested around this time. We have two meteor showers this month: Epsilon Perseids on September 7 and Alpha Aurigids on September 23. The second, visible late in the evening, has been known to leave luminous smoke trails in the night sky. Mars, which is currently in the constellation of Pisces, can be seen rising in the east as soon as it is fully dark. It will brighten through the month and will turn reddish thereafter.

Neptune at Opposition: The giant blue planet will be at its closest approach to Earth on September 11, and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. It will be brighter than at any other time of the year and visible all night long. This is the best time to view and photograph Neptune. Due to its extreme distance from Earth, it will only appear as a tiny blue dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.

Venus and Moon sizzle: September 14 sees a close approach between the Moon and Venus. As it is nearing the New Moon phase, Earth’s satellite will not outshine this bright planet. It’ll be hard to miss this pair.

New Moon: The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun, and will not be visible in the night sky on September 17. This is the best time to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

Comet 88P/Howell: You will need a telescope to see this comet, which will be closest to Earth and appear at its brightest on the night of September 17. Thereafter, till September 26, it will be on it way to the Sun when it reaches perihelion. From there, it will start moving away and dimming.

September Equinox: This is the month of the Autumn Equinox in the northern hemisphere as the Sun crosses the equator and heads south. The Sun will shine directly on the equator on September 22 and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of Fall (Autumn Equinox) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of spring (Vernal Equinox) in the Southern Hemisphere.

Three to tango: On September 25, during pre-dawn and the evening hours, you’ll get a chance to spot our Solar System’s two gas giants close to each other and to the moon. First Jupiter and then Saturn will make a close approach with the Moon.