Stargazing highlights for September

PUBLISHED: 19:52 11 September 2020 | UPDATED: 19:52 11 September 2020

September star chart by Alan Jefferis

September star chart by Alan Jefferis

Archant

From a sky-dragon to a Wine Moon, astonomer Bob Mizon rounds up this month’s starry sights

The bright yellow ‘Goat Star’ Capella now grazes the northern horizon, followed by the Plough, part of the Great Bear (Ursa Major) and due north at midnight. The line through Merak and Dubhe in the Plough runs through the polar point (the star Polaris) towards the steeple-shaped constellation of Cepheus, king of Ethiopia. Use binoculars to appreciate the wealth of small star groups clustering at the feet of Cepheus where he stands in the Milky Way stream.

This month the Milky Way, our galaxy of hundreds of billions of stars, flows high across the sky. At the zenith, directly above us, glitters brilliant white Deneb, tail star of Cygnus the Swan and most distant of the three bright points of the Summer Triangle. Deneb is over 2000 light years away, while Vega in Lyra the Harp is 26 light years distant and Altair (Aquila the Eagle) 16.

A smaller triangle, close to Andromeda in the east, is the delicate grouping of Triangulum, known to some astronomers of ancient times because of its shape as the ‘Nile Delta’ or ‘Sicily’. From dark sites binocular and telescope users may pick out within Triangulum’s boundaries M33, the Triangulum Galaxy, a mighty spiral system 2.7 million light years from Earth and the third largest in the Local Group of about 50 galaxies.

Orange beacon Arcturus, brightest of all the stars in the northern hemisphere of the sky, now sinks into the sunset glow in the west. The sparkling tangles of starry points in Perseus, the hero who delivered Andromeda from the sea-monster, are one of the binocular wonders of the night sky. The coils of the sky-dragon Draco are well seen in September. It appears to be eyeing Hercules.

Look eastwards at dawn for Venus, the brightest of the planets, slowly cruising through Gemini, Cancer and Leo throughout September. In the evening Saturn and, to its right, Jupiter sit in Sagittarius, to the south. Mars is the red object rising in the east and closing with the Moon towards the end of this month. On the 2nd the Full Moon is the traditional Wine Moon of harvest-time. The Autumn Equinox, when the Sun now rises due east and sets due west, falls on the 22nd.

Find the five best locations for star gazing in Dorset here

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