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Last Week's Stargazing Tips

September 20: Moon and Antares

The Moon is in the southwest as night falls, and it has a bright companion: Antares, the heart of the scorpion. The star is close to the left of the Moon this evening, and will stand to the lower right of the Moon tomorrow night.

September 19: Cepheus

Cepheus, the mythological king of Ethiopia, rotates high across the north on autumn evenings. In that position, its brightest stars form a pattern that looks a bit like an ice cream cone.

September 18: Neptune at Opposition

The giant planet Neptune is brightest for the year, and is in view all night. Even so, you need a small telescope to spot it, in Pisces, the fishes. As darkness falls, Neptune stands below the pentagon of stars that outlines the head of one of the fish.

September 17: Brilliant Venus

Venus, the Morning Star, is at its absolute best this week, in the east at first light. It’s so bright that you might think it’s an airplane. That brightness is a combination of its distance from Earth and the portion of its Earth-facing hemisphere that’s in sunlight.

September 16: NGC 7469

The galaxy NGC 7469 is about 200 million light-years away in Pegasus, which is in the east at nightfall and climbs high across the sky later on. The galaxy is giving birth to new stars at a prodigious rate. Some of its star clusters are just one million years old.

September 15: On the Border

An object in a star system 130 light-years away straddles the dividing line between a planet and a brown dwarf. HD 206893 is low in the southeast at dusk, and is bright enough to see with binoculars. It’s in Capricornus, to the upper right of the bright planet Saturn.

September 14: One Month to Go

An annular solar eclipse is just one month away. The Moon won’t completely cover the Sun. Instead, sunlight will outline the Moon with a bright “ring of fire.” The eclipse path will sweep from the Pacific coast of Oregon to the Gulf coast of Texas.