The September Skies

“America is the only country where a significant proportion of the population believes that professional wrestling is real but the moon landing was faked.”

— David Letterman

During the first week of September, the small planet Mercury can be seen very low in the east-northeast for a short time before sunrise. Over the next few days, it then sinks below the horizon and out of view.

Brilliant Venus shines very low above the west-southwest horizon at sunset this month. A telescope will reveal its disk narrowing from 40 percent to 17 percent lit during the month while its apparent size increases from 29” to 46.”

In early September, the Red Planet Mars will still be slightly brighter than Jupiter. Look for it in the south-southeast in evening twilight. Although Mars loses half of its brightness this month, fading about 0.2 magnitude each week, a good telescope will still reveal quite a few surface details. The best telescopic views will be when the planet is due south and highest in the sky.

The globular star cluster M15 in Pegasus is one of the most densely packed clusters in our Milky Way Galaxy. Located 34,000 light-years from Earth, it can be seen in binoculars and amateur telescopes on clear nights during September. Courtesy ESA, Hubble, NASA

Enormous Jupiter shines somewhat low in the southwest in evening twilight during September. Although it is now less than one-tenth as bright as Venus, it still outshines every star in the sky. Small telescopes easily show Jupiter’s two dark cloud belts near the equator and the four large Jovian moons in continual motion around the planet.

The beautiful ringed planet Saturn appears in the south-southwest evening twilight sky. The view of Saturn through a telescope is simply gorgeous now, with its rings tipped at 27 degrees. Don’t miss it. If you need access to a telescope, contact the Martz/Kohl Observatory, 569-3689.

The planet Uranus rises in the east in the early evening. Some people can see the disk of this blue-green world without using any optical aid when viewing from a very dark site. Binoculars or a small telescope make it much easier.

Remote Neptune arrives at opposition on September 8th, when it will be visible in either binoculars or a telescope. A scope will reveal its tiny blue-gray disk.

On September 22nd at 9:54PM, EDT, the Sun will pass directly over Earth’s equator, marking the September Equinox. On this date, our sun rises due east and sets due west from every location on Earth. Astronomically, this moment marks the end of summer and the beginning of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere.

Craters and mountains on the moon can be seen using large binoculars or small telescopes. However, whatever optical aid is used, it must be very steady since any movement or shaking will blur the image.

Editor’s note: This monthly guide to the stars is from the Marshall Martz Memorial Astronomical Association and the Post -Journal. For further information, contact the M.M.M.A.A. at

The spiral galaxy NGC 7331 is easily spotted in the constellation Pegasus during September, using large binoculars and small telescopes. Similar in size and shape to our Milky Way, NGC 7331 lacks a central bar made up of stars, gas and dust. Courtesy ESA, Hubble, NASA

The Hubble Space Telescope captured this image of beautiful Saturn when the planet was at opposition on June 27. On that date, Saturn was the closest to Earth for the year 2018. During this month, Saturn will appear in the south-southwest in evening twilight. Courtesy NASA, ESA, STScI, OPAL Team