September 2011, Stars over Wollumbin, our Southern Skies

Not as many planets will be visible in the September’s sky,

while the now famous comet Elenin will be the center of attention to many,

for all the wrong reasons.

*MERCURY formed his Inferior Conjunction with the Sun, moving between the Earth and the Sun, on August 16, and re-emerged in the pre-dawn sky at the end of August.


Our Little brother will become visible for a short time in early September.

It will be possible to observe Mercury around September 9, looking East, just before sunrise, when it will be very close to Regulus, alpha star of the Leo constellation, but only in a place with a very low and clear horizon.

After the middle of September Mercury will disappear in the Sun’s glow once more, to make his last appearance of 2011 as a Evening Star, from the end of October to late November.

From early December Mercury will be again a Morning Star.

VENUS: September will not be a good month to observe Venus. After her Superior Conjunction to the Sun in mid-August (as Mercury was forming his Inferior Conjunction) Venus has become again the Evening Star, but she is still too close to the western horizon this month to allow for easy observation.

Venus will show off in her full glory only from mid-October, cruising longer and longer the evening sky after sunset, becoming brighter until April 2012 (maximum elongation, or longitudinal distance from the Sun, happening at the end of March).

MARS: only very early risers will be able to observe Mars in September, just above the Eastern horizon, against the backdrop of the Twins constellation.

Mars will rise around 3 am at the start of the month, and a bit earlier at the end, moving from the middle of Gemini to the middle of Cancer.

The Red Planet will be more easily identified around Equinox time, September 22 and 23, when the Waning Moon will pass close by him and the stars Pollux and Castor (Gemini), and Procyon (Canis Minor).

Mars will continue to rise before the Sun until 2012.

JUPITER: Jupiter rises after 10 pm, at the start of Septemeber, and about 9 pm at the end of the month. He then navigates the night sky ’til morning.

The best time to observe Jupiter will be the hours before dawn. The giant planet can be found against the backdrop of Aries, the constellation of the Ram.

On September 15 and 16 Jupiter is easily spotted close to the still big Waning Moon and the star Hamal, alpha of Aries.

SATURN, the planet that has dominated the night sky since March, is now edging closer to the western horizon, ready to completely disappear from view in October.

If you happen to have a very low and uncluttered horizon, you could still spot Saturn at the start of September, an hour or so after sunset, with the backdrop of Virgo constellation, below bright Spica, the ear of corn in the maiden’s hand.


VESTA: the asteroid Vesta, orbiting between Mars and Jupiter, has had her yearly opposition to the Sun on August 5, the best time for observation, the Sun illumining her globe more fully.

It is still possible however to spot Vesta even with the naked eye, better with a pair of binoculars though (magnitude 6). Her relatively fast track in the sky can be followed in September through the constellations of Capricorn. She will be already high in the sky after sunset.

The Waxing Moon will pass close to Vesta on September 8/9. Look for them overhead and then going westward, between 7 pm and 3 am.

ELENIN: in regard to the much talked about Elenin, comet or pseudo red dwarf, harbinger of doomsday or higher consciousness, I refer the reader to a comment I posted in answer to a query on the subject: My view on ELENIN.

As far as observing Elenin with the naked eye, the 22 and 23 of September have been indicated as the best times. But the comet will be around the constellation of Virgo, very close to the setting Sun and for most lost in the glare.

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All the Sky Snapshots have been generated using Stellarium, a wonderful Planetarium freeware software.

Information for the Sky Events has been gathered from these web sites:

http://www.suite101.com/profile.cfm/kellykw

http://homepage.ntlworld.com/mjpowell/Astro/Naked-Eye-Planets/Naked-Eye-Planets.htm#PlanetList

http://www.astronomy.com/en/News-Observing/Sky%20this%20Month.aspx

http://www.curtrenz.com/astronomical.html

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Dazzling Meteors Shower from the Twins Constellation, weather permitting…

The Stellarium Sky-Scape above was taken around midnight on December 16, 2010, looking toward the North-East

The GEMINIDS METEORS SHOWER will have its annual occurrence between December 6 and 19, with the period of high visibility and frequency around December 13 and 14. This is considered by many the best Meteors’ Shower of the year. It is known to produce 60 to 80 multi-coloured meteors per hour, at its peak. From locations away from artificial light there could be up to 120 meteors per hours!

The radiant point (from where the meteors seem to originate) will be in the Constellation Gemini, becoming visible before midnight toward the North-East. The Moon setting in the West at the same time will allow for a better show throughout the night.

The known source of this shower is a strange object called Phaethon 3200, most probably a comet which became extinct a long time ago. The asteroid, that measures 5.10 km diameter, was discovered in 1983.

Phaethon in Greek Mythology was the son of Helios, the Sun god, himself a demi-god who perished after attempting to get too close to the Sun in the chariot he had stolen from his father (left: a 1636 master rendering of this myth by Paul Rubens – click to enlarge).

The asteroid was named after him because it crosses the orbits of Earth, Venus and Mercury, and gets closer to the Sun than any other numbered asteroid. The Earth passes amongst the debris of this comet every year, around mid December.

The URSIDS METEORS SHOWER will occurs instead between December 17 and 24, with the peak on December 22. This is a less spectacular shower, with about 9, 10 meteors expected per hour, at peak. The shooting stars will appear to emanate from the constellation Ursa Minor, home to Polaris in the north. Because of their location the Ursids are not really visible from our Southern Hemisphere.