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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Look At The Sky: September



The Solar System in September 2015:  


Distant planets dominate the late morning hours, with mighty Neptune reaching opposition  late this month!  Beautiful planetary groupings occur this September....pre-dawn twilight!
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Mercury - Mercury will reach greatest eastern elongation on September 4, meaning that it will be rather favorably placed for at least spotting on or around that date, as high as it will get above the western horizon at sunset.  Do not expect it to be "very high" from the horizon and view during bright dusk to spot this elusive planet; note that during the first two weeks of this month, Mercury will be between the horizon and the bright star SPICA, so do not confuse the two!  - In VIRGO
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Venus - Brilliant Venus will rise in dark morning skies about 4:30 local time at midmonth, shining brighter than any other object except the moon.  Telescopically this is a wonderful time to view Venus because it shows a large crescent shape for the first time in many months. - In LEO.
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Mars -  Mars rises only a few minutes after much brighter and much whiter VENUS; the Red planet will continue to rise earlier as the year progresses toward a favorable opposition in 2016    -  In LEO
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Jupiter -  Mighty Jupiter rises about 5:30 a.m. just as twilight begins, nearly due east for northern observers; NOTE that on Sept 18 and for a couple of days either side of that date, (from right to left, west to east), we will have a LINE of:  Venus, Mars, Regulus (star) and Jupiter; Regulus and Mars will be about the same brightness, while brilliant Venus will outshine them all.  - In LEO.
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Saturn - With its rings tilted nearly 25 degrees toward us, find bright Saturn as soon as it begins to get dark after sunset; it will set quickly after dark, so have a good west sky to view for a couple of hours...an ideal target for a mid-September star party! - in LIBRA

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METEOR SHOWERS:
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Observe when the moon does not interfere and attempt to observe AFTER midnight for most meteors to be seen!  For September, we can count on at least five (5) meteor showers, some of which provide for wonderful sky shows, provided that the light of the moon does not interfere.  However, as with a months and times during the year, observers should always be aware that new sporadic meteor showers can occur at anytime from seemingly unknown sources and radiants.
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The advent of crisper skies and cooler temperatures lure many sky watchers outdoors during September to view the impending autumn splendors of the Heavens.  While the day of September, worldwide, can be hot and unbearable, the nights can cool remarkably, resulting in some long glances and time spent among the cosmos.  Most of the meteor showers for September are modest, minor streams with few meteors; however some are unpredictable and thus the sky is worth monitoring during the times posted below!
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September 1 - AURIGID meteors (??) - The strong gibbous moon will be in the sky pretty much all night.  Unfortunately the moon is also in the sky the time when this meteor stream "should be" highest in the sky; rising in the NE sky.  Note however that meteors from the Aurigid shower have ONLY been seen one year!  That was 1935 when about 30-34 meteors per hour were seen, all very bright and quite rapid as they transited across the sky.  Observations of this curious "one-time" (?) meteor shower, centered at about RA 05h 38m / DEC +42 degrees (in Auriga) are obviously very desired.  Get out after midnight and confirm this meteor shower for us!  Most are calling for this to be a poor shower this year, but do plan to observe throughout the night of August 31 and morning of September 1!!
 
September 7 - EPSILON PERSEID meteors - This is usually a fairly dependable group of meteors producing perhaps 12-15 meteors per hour very low in the NE sky about 10 p.m. when the shower should be its best.....3rd quarter moon tonight, so plan to see what you can of this, and observe this shower pretty much before midnight since it is "circumpolar" and high in northern skies throughout the night for northern hemisphere observers....remember that there will still be some stray PERSEID meteors (see August calendar here on ASO) coming from near the same direction, so it is very easy to get these confused with the Epsilon Perseid shower unless one is very familiar with the sky.
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September 14 - SEPT. TAURID METEORS - This is an "iffy" meteor shower, and some experts are calling for a good showing  about mid-month; look for these meteors emanating from Taurus in the early morning hours of Sept. 14, which will be about midway from the eastern horizon to overhead after midnight.  About 13 members of this shower were confirmed in 2002, nearly three quarters of which were about 3rd magnitude; there are actually TWO radiants to this unusual meteor shower, both close together in Taurus;  a great year for these elusive meteors since the moon will be new and absent in the sky;  This shower rises in the east about midnight.
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September 21 - KAPPA AQUARID meteors - this meteor shower is also directly south of overhead (northern hemisphere) about 11 p.m. local time, and continues until the 22nd way past dawn. This is a poor year to observe this lesser meteor shower, since the quarter moon will be in the sky until after midnight.

September 23 - ALPHA AURIGID meteors - moonlight will not be a factor in late morning skies for this year's Alpha Aurigid meteors and hence even the faintest of these meteors are likely to be seen in early morning hours; evening and around midnight are favored.  The radiant  rises in the NE sky about 8 p.m. local time and reaches nearly overhead about 5 a.m. the following morning after the moon has set and when the most meteors are usually seen.  These meteors are very fast and frequently leave fantastic trains of smoke in their wakes....Because the shower is in high northern skies, US observers can plan to view these high northern meteors all night long.





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