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In the Sky This Month

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.

September 27: Old Clusters

A pair of globular star clusters is in the southeast at nightfall. M15 is highest in the sky, to the upper right of the Great Square of Pegasus and high above the almost-full Moon. M30 is lower, in Capricornus. Through binoculars, each looks like a fuzzy star.

September 28: Harvest Moon

Tonight is the night of the Harvest Moon, which is the full Moon closest to the autumnal equinox. In ages past, its extra light helped farmers harvest their autumn crops before the onset of cold weather.

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.

Last quarterLast September 6, 5:21 pm

New MoonNew September 14, 8:40 pm

First QuarterFirst September 22, 2:32 pm

Full MoonFull 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.