What does the September sky have in store for us?
It's already September! That means you're just starting the ninth episode of the heron "Der Himmel im… " to read. The sky in September 2020 also holds planets, the moon and zodiac signs ready for us. So let's hope for some cloud-free nights so you and I can enjoy the beauty of the September sky.
The planets in the sky in September 2020
The September sky provides fantastic visibility of the brightest planets for us skywatchers. That is what the next paragraphs will be about. Let's start with our neighbor, the red planet. What is Mars doing in the sky in September 2020?
Mars in the September sky
Mars gets significantly brighter during the month. It rises at the beginning of the month at 9:30 p.m. In the course of September, our neighbor develops into the evening star and shows up in the sky in the middle of September 2020 already at 20:30. At the end of the month, the red planet just misses the Sandman, because he shows up in the September sky from 19:30.
On September 5, the waning full moon and Mars appear to be almost touching, with the moon parked at the bottom right of Mars. On October 8, Mars will be less than 63 million kilometers from Earth. Mars and Earth won't be that close again until 2035!
Jupiter and Saturn in the sky in September 2020
Jupiter and Saturn are direct neighbors. This is apparently not enough for the two planets, because they are getting closer and closer. The worry that the two planets collide, I can take away from you at this point. The distance between Jupiter and Saturn is not getting any smaller, but our perception likes to play tricks on us. If you want to observe the two in the sky in September 2020, the spectacle begins at the beginning of the month at 17:45 with Jupiter, Saturn then shows up in the September sky from 18:10. Here, too, it gets earlier every day. In the middle of the month it starts at 16:53 or 17:18. At the end of the month, Jupiter (15:52) and Saturn (16:14) are already at the coffee table.
Jupiter and Saturn are less than ten degrees apart. This is less than the width of a fist held at arm's length. In some binoculars you can bring both planets into the same field of view. This proximity was last seen twenty years ago. As summer transitions into autumn, Jupiter and Saturn converge. Jupiter and Saturn merge with the crescent moon of the first quarter (crescent) on September 24 and 25, as the moon passes just below the celestial "cat's eyes." The picture must be fascinating.
Venus in the September sky
Our neighbor on the sunny side is called Venus. This planet can also be seen in the sky in September. Venus shimmers radiantly from the sky before sunrise. At the beginning of September, night owls and stargazers can watch our lovely neighbor from 02:13 am. At the end of the first decade, Venus' rising shifts to 2:27 a.m. Venus uses the end of the second decade to rise even later. At 02:48 she shows herself in the sky. At the end of the month you have to think about whether you are still awake or already awake, because Venus shows up in the night sky from 03:12 o'clock.
Uranus is also visible in the sky in September 2020
The light reflected by Uranus is also visible in the September sky. The light of the sun already lays 334 light minutes to Uranus and then back to Earth. That's a distance of about 6,000,000,000 km. So if you want to take a deep look into the past, try to observe Uranus. At the beginning of the month, the ice giant rises at 9:30 pm. At the end of the first decade, you can find Uranus in the sky from 20:55. At the best television time, i.e. at 20:15, Uranus rises in the sky on 20.09.2020. At the end of September, the ice giant will appear in the sky from 19:35.
Neptune and Mercury are still missing…
The neighbor of the Sun, Mercury and the planet with the greatest distance to the Sun, Neptune, are unfortunately not visible to us in the sky, because both move across the sky during the day in September 2020.
Mercury in the September sky
An error had crept into this paragraph. I have been made aware of this and so here comes the correction.
Mercury is closest to our Sun. In the September sky, it makes its way during the day. At the beginning of the month, Mercury rises at 7:52 a.m. and sets at 8:36 p.m. In the course of the month, the rise and sunset shifts further and further into the day – end of the first decade 8:42 am and 8:19 pm, end of the second decade 9:27 am and 7:57 pm, at the end of the month Mercury appears in the sky in September 2020 from 10:00 am to 7:32 pm.
Neptune in the sky in September 2020
It is damn far away and compared to the earth it impresses with four times the diameter of the earth and about 58 times the volume of the earth. Neptune, like Uranus, is an ice giant. And it also shows up in the September sky. At the beginning of the month, the planet rises at 8:08 p.m. and sets at 7:20 a.m. In the further course, the fourth largest planet in the solar system rises and sets earlier and earlier. At the end of the first decade, Neptune can be seen between 7:32 pm and 6:43 am, at the end of the second decade the ice giant watches the Sandman (6:52 pm rise, 6:03 am) and at the end of September, Neptune's journey begins at 6:12 pm and ends at 5:22 am.
Equinoxes in September 2020
June held the "longest day" for us. The solstice in winter is on 22.12.2020 and in between on September 22nd is the equinox, also called autumn equinox. This is where the calendrical autumn begins, because the sun continues to move towards the southern hemisphere. Spring is heralded there on this day. The whole thing happens here in March with the spring equinox.
The moon in the September sky
Our constant companion opened the month with a full moon. Experts argue a bit, because mathematically the moon was full on 01.09.2020. However, in most time zones, the moon isn't officially full until September 2. It is sometimes referred to as a whole grain moon. The moon owes this nickname to the North Americans. At this time, the corn harvest is brought in. The following names were attributed to the full moon: Scheiding, Jagdmond, Gerstenmond, Holzmond, Engelmond.
At the time of writing, we are in the waning moon phase. Half moon in the September sky is then on 10.09.2020 at 11:25 am. After the moon will continue to wane, we will enjoy the new moon in the sky in September 2020 on 17.09.2020 and seven days later, on 24.09.2020, the moon is already half full again.
The end of September is almost full moon, but only on October 1, 2020, the moon will be officially full.
Star constellations in the sky in September 2020
Summer constellations still dominate much of the sky, and the Summer Triangle dazzles near the zenith once dusk ends. Although the Summer Triangle is not an officially recognized constellation, it is an outstanding star configuration that is quickly discovered even in light-polluted urban skies. It's one of the best tools to help you navigate the northern summer sky, as the three stars you can see – Vega, Altair and Deneb – are the brightest stars in their respective constellations: Lyra the harp, Aquila the eagle and Cygnus the swan.
Another excellent summer constellation is Boötes, the shepherd. Boötes is enthroned in the western sky in the early evening. It looks like a dragon with the brilliant star Arcturus marking the dragon's tail. Arcturus is the brightest star in the summer sky in the northern hemisphere.
Another summer classic is the constellation Sagittarius, the Archer. It is easy to find this year in the low southern sky, to the right of Jupiter and Saturn. According to Greek mythology, Sagittarius is a centaur – half man, half horse – and points his arrow at the nearby scorpion. It actually resembles more of a teapot, but Sagittarius sounds better than teapot.
At the top right of Venus you can see some of the bright winter constellations such as Orion the Hunter. As our world continues its cycle around our home star, Orion and his band will take over our evening sky towards the end of the year.
Enough preview! Take some time to enjoy the splendor of the September stars. If you are looking for current star charts, I recommend a visit to the website of the Zeiss Planetarium in Berlin. Here you will find star charts for each month.