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The night sky this week: September 11-18, 2023
This week is perfect for watching the moon. Most people assume that the best time to view our satellite is when it’s full, but it’s actually a much more enjoyable sight – in my opinion – when it’s a subtle crescent. This week, it is possible to watch it diminish into a thin crescent in the predawn hours before reappearing on the other side of the sun in the post-sunset sky.
As it switches between morning and evening, it is moving toward being at a specific location in its orbit to cause something very special on October 14 of next month — an annular solar eclipse that can be seen from nine US states (and a partial solar eclipse that can be seen across the rest of the United States). Americas).
Here’s everything you need to know about watching the moon, planets and stars this week:
Monday, September 11: Crescent Moon in the “Beehive”
If the Pleiades (M45) – now visible in the east late at night – is the best-looking open star cluster in the night sky, then the Beehive Cluster (M44) is the closest behind it. However, to see it requires getting up early.
Before dawn, look east to see a 12% waxing crescent just 3 degrees off M44, which looks great with a 10×42 or 10×50 binocular. Below and to the right will be the super-bright Venus.
Tuesday, September 12: The crescent moon appears to “brighten the earth” with Venus
A stunning view of a very thin crescent, only 6% illuminated, is available before sunrise today in the east and northeast. The Moon will display “Earthshine” — sunlight reflected by Earth on the Moon’s surface — and Venus will once again be closely present.
Wednesday, September 13: A very thin crescent moon
Another early rise today may score you a 2.4% brightened super-crescent crescent to the east-northeast, though since it will only appear in the gathering dawn, you’ll need a cloud-free horizon to see it. To increase your chances of seeing it, use a pair of binoculars. About 4 degrees to the upper right of the Moon will be the star Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation Leo.
Friday, September 15: new moon
Today is the new moon, when our satellite is almost between the Earth and the sun and gets lost in the glare of the latter. It won’t cause a solar eclipse this month, but in 29 days its path will cross the path of the ecliptic — the Sun’s apparent path across our sky — to do just that.
The magnificent “ring of fire” annular solar eclipse will be visible on October 14, 2023 in eight US states – from Oregon to Texas – as well as from Central and South America.
Sunday, September 17: The appearance of the crescent moon and Spica
Tonight brings a more favorable evening view of the crescent moon, which will rise in the west-southwest just after sunset. Barely 8% of the bright star Spica is visible to its lower right. Binoculars may be required. Mars will be nearby, but it will likely be too low to see.
Object of the Week: Summer Triangle
The Summer Triangle rises in the east after dark and around midnight by July and August, and is one of the fulcrums of the summer night sky. Featuring Deneb in Cygnus (top left), bright Vega in Lyra (top right), and Altair in Aquila (bottom, center), and from really dark skies, you’ll be able to see the Milky Way flowing through the Summer Triangle. Specifically it flows behind Deneb and Altair.
This week, the Summer Triangle – now in its final stages – will be seen moving slowly toward the western sky.
Stargazing Tip of the Week: Get some binoculars
There is a lot to be said for observing the stars with the naked eye. Not only is it entirely possible to spend your entire astronomical career without any optics, but for many stargazers this expansive view of the night sky is the whole point of being outside in the first place.
However, any pair of binoculars will allow you to reveal a second layer of the night sky – especially star clusters – that lie beyond human view. Carefully focus and drag your binoculars across the Milky Way around the Summer Triangle and you will be amazed at the rich star fields you will see.
Specific times and dates apply to mid-northern latitudes. For more accurate site-specific information, visit online planetariums such as Stellarium And Sky Live. Checks Planet rising/planet set, sunset Sunrise And Moonrise/moonset times where you are.
I wish you clear skies and wide eyes.
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