The stars of autumn begin to push those of summer out of the way as the nights grow longer and cooler. Pegasus is in view in the east as night falls, with several related constellations following the flying horse into the sky over the next few hours.
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In the Sky This Month
September 29: Heading West
Lyra, the harp, is high overhead at nightfall. Its leading light, Vega, is one of the brighter stars in the night sky. In the 1800s, the government built observatories in the western U.S. to use Vega and other bright stars to establish the exact locations of cities and towns.
September 30: Moon and Jupiter
Jupiter, the largest and heaviest planet in the solar system, teams up with the Moon the next few nights. Jupiter looks like a brilliant star. It’s well to the lower left of the Moon tonight, but will huddle quite close tomorrow night.
October 1: Moon and Jupiter
The Moon and the planet Jupiter stage a beautiful encounter tonight. They climb into view about 9 or 9:30. Jupiter looks like a brilliant star quite close to the Moon, which is just past full. They will move slightly farther apart by dawn, with Jupiter below the Moon.
October 2: Lunar ‘Eye’
The Moon, which rises in mid-evening, is a world in its own right, marked by impressive surface features. For example, the gray patch that forms the right eye of the “man in the moon” is a smooth volcanic plain called Mare Imbrium. It is bigger than Germany.
October 3: Moon and Aldebaran
The Moon has a prominent companion late tonight: Aldebaran, the bright orange heart of Taurus, the bull. The star is close to the lower right of the Moon as they climb into good view, by about 11 p.m.
October 4: Star in Transition?
M33 is a beautiful spiral galaxy in the constellation Triangulum, which is low in the east-northeast at nightfall. M33 is less than three million light-years away, and it’s smaller and less massive than our home galaxy, the Milky Way. It’s an easy target for binoculars.
October 5: Astounding Star
A star that was photographed 100 years ago tonight proved that there’s more to the universe than just our home galaxy. The star is in the Andromeda Galaxy. Edwin Hubble’s images placed the star far beyond the Milky Way, confirming that the universe consists of myriad galaxies.
Last September 6, 5:21 pm
New September 14, 8:40 pm
First September 22, 2:32 pm
Full September 29, 4:58 am
Times are U.S. Central Time.
Apogee September 12
Perigee September 27
The full Moon of September is the Fruit Moon or Green Corn Moon. This year it’s also the Harvest Moon.