For September’s night sky, scan the southern heavens to see bright Jupiter and a dim Saturn. You can’t miss these large planets near the constellation Sagittarius.

Jupiter starts the month at -2.6 magnitude (very bright,) but it wanes in luminosity as the month continues, according to the U.S. Naval Observatory. Its magnitude dips to -2.4, which is still highly visible for this giant gaseous planet loitering near the handle of the constellation Sagittarius’s teapot shape.

Nearby in the southern evening sky, chummy Saturn will look dull near Jupiter. The ringed planet is at +0.3 magnitude early in September, dimming as the month continues.

Last fall, our red neighbor Mars was a +1.8 magnitude (hard to find) as it rose in the morning sky. This fall, the Red Planet starts September at -1.8 magnitude (very bright) by rising now in the evening’s eastern heavens around 10 p.m. It becomes delightfully brighter at -2.4 magnitude by the time we enter October.

NASA’s Perseverance Rover (nasa.gov/perseverance) — launched at the end of July — zips its way toward Mars, where it is due to land at Jezero Crater on Feb. 21.

Early in the month, the extroverted Venus rises at 3 a.m. and climbs above the eastern horizon about 3:30 a.m. This dazzling planet — at -4.3 magnitude (very bright) — lingers now in the constellation Gemini, but it moves quickly against the stellar background. By mid-month, Venus cruises through the constellation Cancer the crab, still in the eastern heavens before daybreak.

Watch Venus move toward the constellation Leo the lion ahead of sunrise, as the planet slides toward the star Regulus (Alpha Leonis), sitting at the lion’s front. The bright planet moves closer late in September, and Venus conjuncts Regulus on Oct. 3, according to the observatory.

Later in the month, Venus dulls slightly to -4.1 magnitude — which is still extremely bright.

We get a bold and beautiful moon at September’s start. Catch a nearly full moon in the night’s early heavens — around 8 p.m. — on Sept. 1. By 10 p.m. that night, find the moon between the Jupiter-Saturn duo in the south and Mars, low in the east.

The moon becomes officially full Sept. 2, as the lunar disc scoots toward Mars. On the morning (before sunrise) of Sept. 5, the gibbous moon approaches Mars in the western heavens, and later that night, the moon and Mars meet up — as they rise in the east.

The waning last-quarter moon approaches Venus on Sept. 12 before dawn, and that lunar fingernail skips past Venus on the mornings of Sept. 13 and Sept. 14. The new moon moves past Jupiter (Sept. 24) and Saturn (Sept. 25) in the southern evening sky.

We’ll soon see cooler days and colorful leaves, as summer turns to fall at the autumnal equinox on Sept. 22 at 9:31 a.m., according to the Naval Observatory.

● Sept. 12 — “The Evolution of Galaxies over Cosmic Time,” an online talk by Tommy Wiklind, an astronomy professor at Catholic University, hosted by the National Capital Astronomers. 7:30 p.m. For online access to the meeting, register at capitalastronomers.org.

● Sept. 13 — “Studying Wind on Mars from Earth,” an online talk by Mariah Baker, a postdoctoral fellow at the National Air and Space Museum. She will discuss how discoveries have challenged our Earth-based theories and the transport of surface material by wind on the Red Planet. Baker is a member of NASA’s Curiosity rover and InSight lander missions. Hosted by the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club (novac.com). 7:30 p.m. Web: rb.gy/gjppxm

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Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/skywatch-whats-happening-in-the-heavens-in-september/2020/08/29/53e86f48-e940-11ea-97e0-94d2e46e759b_story.html

World news – GB – Skywatch: What’s happening in the heavens in September

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