The Planets for September 2014
The innermost planet spends the entire month of September in the western evening sky in the constellation of Virgo. It reaches it greatest angular distance east of the Sun on the 22nd when it will be setting two hours later than the Sun. On the 20th and 21st of the month Mercury will be within
1 degree of Virgo’s brightest star, Spica. The thin waxing crescent Moon joins the pair on the 26th and may well be worth a photograph.
Rising a little over 30 minutes before the Sun on the first few days of September, Venus is well on the way to superior conjunction with the Sun late in October and getting harder to spot in the early morning twilight.
Vernal equinox on the 23rd of the month.
The red planet begins the month in the company of Saturn and the Moon in the constellation of Libra, setting at 11:30pm. Because of its rapid eastward movement against the background stars, by the end of the month it will set only 20 minutes later than this time. On the 13th it crosses into Scorpius and on the 26th into Ophiuchus where, toward the end of the month, it will pass
3 degrees to the north of its rival Antares. The colour similarity of these two bodies is quite striking, both exhibiting a distinct orange tint.
Rising at 5:00am in the early morning twilight, Jupiter starts the month only
3 degrees from M44 the Beehive cluster. It will get easier to observe as the month progresses rising earlier each morning until by the end of the month it will enter the eastern sky at 3:20am, well over two hours before the Sun. The waning crescent Moon will be in attendance on the 20th and 21st of September.
High in the north western sky after sunset, Saturn can still be found on the scales of Libra. The Moon and Mars are in very close proximity at the beginning of the month however the trio will quickly part company as the month progresses with the Moon on its rapid trip around the Earth and Mars on its journey around the Sun. A view through even a small telescope will reveal its magnificent ring structure and on the 11th the asteroid Vesta will be just over
1 degree to the north of Saturn. It will be well worth observing this event telescopically. The thin waxing crescent Moon visits Saturn for the second time in the month on the 28th.
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The Planets for October 2014
Visible early in the month in the western evening twilight and because of the angle of the ecliptic to the western horizon will be setting almost two hours later than the Sun for the first few days of the month. It however sinks very rapidly toward the Sun as the month progresses and is in inferior conjunction on the 17th of the month after which it enters the early morning sky and by the end of the month will be rising 45 minutes earlier than the Sun.
This month Venus goes through its transition of going from being the “Morning Star” to becoming the “Evening Star” later in November. It is in superior conjunction with the Sun on the 25th of the month and too close to the Sun for the entire month to be safely observed.
The red planet begins the month less than
4 degrees from Antares, the star that reflects its name (rival of Mars) and the similarity in their colours is obvious when they are this close together. Each passing evening takes it further east of Antares, passing
2 degrees to the north of the 7th magnitude globular cluster M19 on the 9th before heading into the star clouds of the Milky Way. It passes less than a degree from the Lagoon Nebula (M8) on the 27th and the 28th as it heads deeper into Sagittarius. The waxing crescent Moon lies to the north of the planet on the 28th and 29th of the month.
Beginning the month in Cancer, Jupiter rises over two hours before the Sun at the beginning of October. It moves into Leo on the 19th where by the end of the month will be rising over three hours before the Sun at 2:35am. On the 18th and 19th the waning crescent Moon lies in attendance.
This is the last opportunity to observe Saturn in the evening sky as it is rapidly heading for conjunction with the Sun in November. The first half of the month will be the best chance to see the ringed planet in a reasonably dark western twilight after which it appears in the ever brightening twilight sky. The dwarf planet Ceres will be within half a degree of Jupiter on the 5th and will outshine all of Saturn’s moons except its largest moon, Titan. The thin waxing crescent Moon sits just above Saturn on the 26th of the month.
There will be a total lunar eclipse visible from eastern Australia on the 8th of the month. The times are listed below and are stated in Eastern Standard Time. One hour will have to be added to the times for the states on daylight savings which starts on October the 5th.
Penumbral Phase begins 6:14pm EST
Partial Stage Begins
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