STAR TRAK: September 2012

Aug 31, 2012
Photo: NASA

Saturn will come into view about an hour after sunset in early September. At mid-northern latitudes, look for the yellow planet about 10 degrees high in the west-southwest well to the lower left (south) of the bright orange star Arcturus. Saturn will sink lower each day, and by month's end it will disappear into bright twilight an hour after sunset. It will pass behind the sun in late October, reappearing in the morning sky a few weeks later.

Mars will be about 10 degrees to the left (south) of Saturn on Sept. 1, but the red-orange planet will move rapidly eastward as the days pass, leaving Saturn behind. Mars will set about two hours after the sun each night for the rest of this year.

Mercury will be too close to the sun during September to observe without a telescope. Only those with an unobstructed view of the western horizon will be able to see it at all.

Jupiter will rise shortly before midnight local time at the beginning of the month and two hours earlier by month's end. It will be about two-thirds of the way from the southern horizon to overhead when it reaches its highest point in the south near dawn.

Dazzling white Venus will rise around 3 a.m. local time during September and be about a third of the way up the eastern sky by the middle of . On Sept. 12, the crescent moon will be a few degrees southwest of Venus, which will be about the same distance southwest of the Beehive Star Cluster, a beautiful sight in binoculars.

Aurora

On a clear September night you may be lucky enough to see an aurora (sometimes called "northern lights"). These silent ribbons and curtains of light can appear whenever the sun is active, but they are especially likely from August to October.

Eruptions from the sun's surface hurl enormous amounts of charged particles into space, and when some of these head in our direction, they cause auroral activity. Details and photographs are available online. You can watch for auroras when they are most likely to happen by checking sites such as the Space Weather Prediction Center and SpaceWeather.com, which also has a page featuring sightings of auroras.

Equinox

The will reach the September equinox on Sept. 22 at 10:49 a.m. EDT (14:49 Universal Time) marking the start of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere and spring in the Southern Hemisphere. For the next six months in the Northern Hemisphere, the nights will be longer than the days.

Moon phases

The moon will be at third quarter on Sept. 8, new on Sept. 15, at first quarter on Sept. 22 and full on Sept. 29 (the Harvest Moon, which is the full moon closest to the September equinox).

Explore further: Mysteries of space dust revealed

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

STAR TRAK for March 2012

Mar 06, 2012

Mars was opposite the sun in our sky on March 3, rising at sunset and remaining visible all night. If you looked to the east as the sky darkened, you could see the Red Planet gleaming at its biggest and brightest, ...

STAR TRAK for February 2012

Feb 02, 2012

As evening twilight fades during February, the two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, will highlight the sky as they come into view in the southwest.

STAR TRAK for October

Oct 04, 2011

As the short nights of summer give way to the longer nights of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere, Jupiter will come into view above the southeastern horizon as the sun sets. The huge planet will be much brighter ...

STAR TRAK for May 2011

May 06, 2011

The closest gathering of four bright planets in decades will be on display low in the eastern sky before dawn during May.

STAR TRAK for December

Dec 01, 2011

Venus will be at its dazzling brightest as December begins, appearing in the southwestern sky after sunset. This beautiful "evening star" will set two hours after the sun on Dec. 1 and an hour later at month's end.

Recommended for you

Mysteries of space dust revealed

17 hours ago

The first analysis of space dust collected by a special collector onboard NASA's Stardust mission and sent back to Earth for study in 2006 suggests the tiny specks open a door to studying the origins of the ...

A guide to the 2014 Neptune opposition season

22 hours ago

Never seen Neptune? Now is a good time to try, as the outermost ice giant world reaches opposition this weekend at 14:00 Universal Time (UT) or 10:00 AM EDT on Friday, August 29th. This means that the distant ...

Informing NASA's Asteroid Initiative: A citizen forum

Aug 28, 2014

In its history, the Earth has been repeatedly struck by asteroids, large chunks of rock from space that can cause considerable damage in a collision. Can we—or should we—try to protect Earth from potentially ...

Image: Rosetta's comet looms

Aug 28, 2014

Wow! Rosetta is getting ever-closer to its target comet by the day. This navigation camera shot from Aug. 23 shows that the spacecraft is so close to Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko that it's difficult to ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Doug_Huffman
not rated yet Aug 31, 2012
Auroras? How about a measure of solar activity that's not in the tank? Even with the activity of a month ago, the auroras were barely visible from the 45th parallel.