- Jupiter will reach opposition towards the end of the month, making it one of the best times to view the planet.
- The autumnal equinox refers to the time when the sun crosses from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere.
- September’s full moon, the Harvest Moon, comes early in the month.
After a summer filled with meteor showers, stargazers can look forward to distinct planetary events that will highlight the September skies.
September offers views of the meteors, one of the best opportunities to get a closer look at Jupiter, a chance to check what the unseen is (the absence of seeing things more than the actual event of seeing them), and a time to enjoy the sun’s transition from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere during the autumnal equinox.
^ Jupiter in opposition
Let’s skip the big event of the month, when Jupiter reaches opposition on September 26th. The largest planet in our solar system would position itself so that Earth would be directly between Jupiter and the sun. This alignment means that the planet appears larger and brighter to us on Earth – bright enough that it can be seen without the aid of binoculars or a telescope (although you’ll get a better look at Jupiter by these means).
More from Popular Mechanics
The regions of Jupiter filled with hydrogen and helium are famous for the gas belts that surround the planet, and they will be visible if you use a telescope. When these elements in the rings combine with methane, ammonia, and water, they present a mixture of colors.
Combined with Jupiter’s correct view, the planet’s four largest moons – Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto – will show their icy surfaces.
🌘 rare unseen
The occultation of the Moon and Uranus on September 14th is known to be a rare event. During the occultation, which lasts for about 50 minutes during the evening hours on the East Coast (5:30 PM ET) and in the afternoon on the West Coast (2:30 PM Pacific), Uranus will slide past the moon before it. It appears again on the other side. It would be hard to see in North America, but it’s still noteworthy.
🌕 harvest moon
Enjoy the September full moon, the harvest moon, in the evening of September 9 through the early morning hours of September 10. While not as bright as the supermoons we saw during the summer, the Harvest Moon still provides a great opportunity to get a good view of the moon, especially if the weather remains clear in your area.
Well, let’s call it how it is: The best meteor showers came and went in August. The Perseid meteor shower, which peaked between August 11–12, is the largest annual shower. While it officially runs until September 1, don’t expect more opportunities to see the shooting stars. But if you’re still looking for a star or two, you might catch a hardcore guy.
Expect to find a pair of small meteor showers in September, including the September 1 peak of the Aurigid meteor shower and the September 9 peak of the ε-Perseids, which have nothing to do with the spectacular August showers.
Conjugation occurs when two celestial bodies become so warm that they sometimes seem to meet. A conjunction event between the Moon and Saturn will take place on September 8, and their conjunction of the Moon and Mars will be on September 16.
The moon will be less full for the subsequent event, about 56 percent full versus 96 percent soon after Harvest Moon, so expect to get a nice view of Mars for this event.
Tim Newcomb is a journalist based in the Pacific Northwest. Covers stadiums, sneakers, gear, infrastructure, and more for a variety of publications, including Popular Mechanics. His favorite interviews have included sit-down sessions with Roger Federer in Switzerland, Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles and Tinker Hatfield in Portland.
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