September 2023 Stargazing Guide

Posted on Thursday, August 31st, 2023

And a waaaaay we go. Greetings junior scientists, scientists and citizens of this great big Weird, Wild and Wonderful World in which we live. As always I'm your humble Science Communicator the great Orbax coming to you from the Department of Physics at the University of Guelph. I want to welcome you to our September 2023 Star Gazing Guide.

Well here we are .September is finally upon us and many of you will be returning back to your studies. We're a far way away from those late Summer Nights. By the end of September, Sunrise will be taking place at 7:00 a.m. and Sunset will be taking place as early as 7:00 p.m. But you know what that means? 12 hours of stargazing junior scientists! This month we look to the return of our gas giants, I show you a few new constellations to add to your list, and I explain the Autumnal Equinox.

All this and more if we just take some time... to look up.

Well I've got to ask you, what are we gonna do about all these planets? Mercury will be in its greatest Western Elongation On the morning of September 22nd seen due east, rising about a hundred minutes before Sunrise. Our gas giants Saturn and Jupiter return to our September Sky with Jupiter dominating the early hours of the morning and Saturn lighting up our evenings. And speaking of Saturn, this month we're going to use our planet spotting skills to locate some lesser-known constellations.

Just after Sunset look to the southeast. That bright light in the sky just a little bit above the horizon, but not too far up? That's Saturn.

How do we know it's Saturn?

Well, planets have a unique trait that makes spotting them distinct from finding a star. You see the light that comes from planets in our solar system tends to be constant whereas the light we see coming from stars tends to flicker. Locate that solid light and we start from there.

Alright so you've got Saturn.

Now look up. This first one is going to be tough. It's actually the second smallest constellation in the night sky and is called Equuleus, the little horse or foal. Equuleus is faint and may be difficult to see due to light pollution but it's one of the original 48 constellations introduced by Ptolemy in the second century. If we keep traveling upwards you'll discover Delphinus the Dolphin. Delphinus is also a very small constellation but the brightest stars outline a diamond-shaped asterism that you should be able to spot known as Job's Coffin. Delphinus contains five stars with known planets as well as some globular clusters and the blue flash nebula.

Okay let's keep going for one last constellation that I want to tell you about. Pretty much directly above you at this point is Vulpecula, the little fox. It's also very faint but lucky for you it's smack dab in the middle of our well-known friends the Summer Triangle. Vulpecula actually contains a Messier Object, M27 the Dumbbell Nebula.

So there we have it, starting at Saturn and going all the way up to the center of the night sky. A few new constellations for you to keep your eyes out for junior scientists. Good luck and clear skies.

The full moon this month is on Sept 29, and since it's the closest one to the autumnal equinox it is typically referred to as the Harvest Moon. Not only that, it's our fourth and final Super Moon of 2023.
What's a super moon?

Check out our Star Gazing Guides from July and August to learn more.

The Mi'kmaw refer to the September Moon as the Mating Moon Wikumkewiku's, as do the Cree Nation of central Canada who refer to it as Nimitahamowipisim, the “Rutting Moon” - when the bull moose scrapes the velvet from its antlers as a sign that mating season will begin.

As I mentioned earlier September 23rd is the first day of autumn and here's why.
We all remember that the Earth is tilted at 23.5 degrees with respect to the line perpendicular to the plane of our orbit around the sun. One Earth year corresponds to one full solar orbit. In December we talked about the winter solstice and in June we talked about the summer solstice. The solstice occurs on the day when we are either closest to or furthest away from the sun due to that tilt. These are the days where we experience the most daylight hours hours or the least daylight hours. The two extremes.

Exactly halfway between the solstices, we experience equal amounts of daylight and nighttime hours. This is known as the equinox. The autumnal equinox occurs on Sept 23rd and denotes the first day of autumn. After this point our daylight hours will decrease until we reach the winter solstice in January. This phenomena occurs AGAIN in 6 months once we’ve passed 180 degrees through our orbit around the sun, in the springtime for the vernal equinox.

Our nights are getting longer and with an early Sunset even more of you will get the opportunity to see the wonders of the universe that spiral above our heads, just beyond the edge of our skies. So many clouds that shield our view. Even the sun itself blocks our gaze with its light, but still we persevere. Still we seek out mysteries and still we gaze upon an infinite view of possibilities. All this is out there, waiting for you, and all you have to do is just take some time... to look up

See you next month junior scientists and don't forget to have a science-tastic day!

Special thanks to Royal City Science's own planetary geochemist Dr Glynis Perrett for her help preparing our Star Gazing Guide, and the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.


Find related news by keyword

News Archive