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Last Week's Stargazing Tips

September 22: Autumn Equinox

Today is the autumnal equinox. The Sun crosses the equator from north to south, beginning a season that will last until the winter solstice, in December. The seasons are reversed in the southern hemisphere, where today marks the start of spring.

September 21: Vega

Vega, one of the brightest stars in the night sky, passes high overhead early this evening. From the middle latitudes of the United States, in fact, it passes directly overhead — a point in the sky called the zenith.

September 20: Harvest Moon

The Harvest Moon lights up the sky tonight. It is the full Moon closest to the autumnal equinox. Many people think the Harvest Moon looks especially big and bright. On average, however, it is no flashier than any other full Moon.

September 19: Double Cluster

The Double Cluster—two star clusters that stand side by side—are easily visible to the unaided eye, especially under dark skies. The clusters are in the northeast at nightfall, below the “W” outlined by Cassiopeia. They are in the northwest at first light.

September 18: Directions

The Big Dipper hunkers low in the northwest at nightfall, with the bowl below the handle. If you draw a line connecting the stars at the outer edge of the bowl and extend it to the upper right, the first moderately bright star you touch is Polaris, the North Star.

September 17: Moon and Jupiter

A bright companion stands quite near the Moon tonight: the planet Jupiter. The solar system’s biggest planet looks like a brilliant star. It is the second-brightest object in the night sky after the Moon.

September 16: Moon and Saturn

The planet Saturn is easy to pick out tonight. It’s close to the upper left of the Moon at nightfall and looks like a bright star. The brighter planet Jupiter is to their left.