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What's Up...
Some observing hilights
to look forward to...

The following tips on current and upcoming astronomical events
have been gathered from magazines and other sources by Dave Gamble
with the objective of giving OC RASC members a heads-up on
special personal
astro-experiences to look forward to.

Thurs. Sept. 1 - For meteor shower fans whose appetite was whetted by August's Perseid meteor shower, there will be a more modest treat in the pre-dawn hours this morning. The first quarter Moon riding low in the southern sky will be out of the way which will help since 'Aurigid meteors' are definitely in the minor league. This morning they will peak in the northeast sky before dawn. The radiant point will be in the constellation Auriga. Aurigids typically produce only a handful of meteors per hour, but there have been outburst years.

Sat. Sept. 3 – Still cruising the deep southern part of the ecliptic path, this evening the First Quarter Moon will survey the Okanagan from the stars of Scorpius with bright Antares just to her right. Because it is a red supergiant near the end of its life, alpha Scorpii’s distinctive hue led to it being named ‘rival of Mars’.

Wed. Sept. 7 – The waxing gibbous Moon has now moved into the stars of the constellation Capricornus, joining Saturn in the lower southern night sky.

Thurs. Sept. 8 – Unfortunately the almost Full Moon will compromise things for those interested in spying another minor meteor shower. This group of ‘shooting stars’ are called the Epsilon Perseids and they offer a handful of streaks per hour, emanating from the vicinity of the ‘devil star’ Algol which climbs up the eastern sky toward the zenith after midnight. Though low in the southern sky, the Moon will be something of a spoil sport.

Fri. Sept. 9 – Making up for its meteor shower intrusion the night before, tonight Luna will pose between Jupiter and Saturn in the southeastern sky.

Sat. Sept. 10- Tonight celebrates the bounty of the fall season with the annual Harvest Moon which is the full Moon closest to the autumn equinox. In earlier times the Moon performed a useful and important function by adding light to late evening harvest operations, not just for one night, but several in a row. This is because in fall our satellite is moving higher along the ecliptic path which compensates somewhat for its eastwardly movement each night.

Sun. Sept. 11 – Keeping up its monthly planetary visits, tonight the just past full Moon will be in the vicinity of bright Jupiter as Luna cruises on what we see as the fall upslope of the ecliptic path. In reality the path is the plane of our solar system and the apparent offset is caused by the 23.5 degree tilt of the Earth’s axis.

Wed. Sept. 14 -  Fall is a great time to catch ‘the Demon Star’ in one of its blinks. Algol will reach its minimum brightness in a two hour time period centred at 9.42pm tonight. Compare its brightness with neighbouring stars in Perseus in the north-northeast sky early in the evening and then check it out again around 10pm to see the decrease in brightness.
Thurs. Sept. 15 – Late tonight those able to enjoy the night sky will be treated to a very pretty tableau. The Moon will be in the company of not just Mars but also the beautiful open clusters of the Hyades and Pleiades and the stars of Taurus.

Sat. Sept. 17 –   There will be another opportunity to see Algol do its slow blink tonight. This time ‘the Devil Star’, as it was known before it was revealed as an eclipsing binary star, will reach its minimum brightness in a two hour time period centred around 9.31pm tonight. By comparing its brightness with neighbouring stars before 8.30pm, its much dimmer appearance after 10.30pm will be revealed.

Sat. Sept. 17 – This is Last Quarter Moon night. Neatly divided Luna will rise in the eastern sky to the left of Mars and Aldebaran in the constellation Taurus.

Tues. Sept. 20 – In the wee hours this morning the waning crescent Moon will be lined up with Gemini’s twin stars Castor and Pollux in the eastern sky. Castor, seen as the upper star, is actually a sextuple system with its six suns organized into three pairs! This would be quite a sight nearby instead of from 51 light years away. Pollux on the other hand is ‘only’ 34 light years away and is an orange coloured evolved giant star, the closest giant to our Sun.

Thurs. Sept. 22 - Where did the time go? It seemed only weeks ago that we observed the Summer Solstice with the Sun setting at its northernmost point on the horizon. Now, the second half of the current year is itself half over and the Sun will set at the half way mark of its return circuit. The official moment of autumnal equinox will occur at 6.04pm.

Fri. Sept. 23 - With the earlier arrival of dusk, those wishing some serious observing fun might consider the 'Milky Way Marathon' this weekend since Luna is heading toward her New Moon phase and will be out of the way. In the same way that the maximum number of Messier objects can be seen in the course of a night in March, it is possible to see virtually all of the Milky Way that is visible from Canada during September. The idea is to begin in the evening with Sagittarius on the southern horizon, and work your way up the Milky Way through Scutum, Cygnus and overhead. As the night wears on the perspective changes as the Perseus arm begins to swing overhead and more and more of the 'other side' of the Milky Way rises, culminating with the appearance of Taurus and Orion and the ‘outside’ view of our galaxy during the pre-dawn hours. Our Okanagan Observatory with its excellent Milky Way dark sky view would be a perfect place for this all night campaign.

Sun. Sept. 25 – This is New Moon night, the heart of the monthly dark sky period beloved by deep sky observers and imagers.

Mon. Sept. 26 – The gas giant Jupiter officially arrives at opposition tonight, directly opposite the Earth from the Sun. The way Earth’s and Jupiter’s orbits work out, this will be the closest that the two have been to each other since October 1963, though the difference between opposition distances is relatively slight.

Fri. Sept. 30 – The waxing crescent Moon will be seen low in the southern sky tonight among the stars of Scorpius near giant Antares. In one month’s time this southern constellation will be  engulfed by the advancing evening twilight.