September 1, 2022: Venus, Mars, and Jupiter are visible before sunrise. Saturn is in the southeast after sunset. The moon is near the Scorpion’s southern pincer.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Chicago, Illinois: Sunrise, 6:17 a.m. CDT; Sunset, 7:24 p.m. CDT. Check local sources for sunrise and sunset times for your location.
Here’s what’s up this month:
The Sun reaches its coordinates for the autumnal equinox on September 22 and 8:04 p.m. CDT. Until March 20, 2023, the sun’s rays are directed south of the equator. Happy Spring for our southern hemisphere readers!
The Moon phases for the month: First Quarter, 3rd; Full Moon (Harvest), 10th; Last Quarter, 17th; and New, 25th.
The Harvest moon is the name of this month’s Full phase. Traditionally, its light helped farmers gather and store crops before the invention of outdoor lighting. The phase is directly connected to the manner in which the bright moon appears in the sky. The Harvest Moon Effect occurs nearly every month, but it is most obvious for the Full moon nearest the September equinox in the northern hemisphere. During a future article, this celestial wonder will be explored.
The lunar orb passes Antares on the 3rd and the 30th; appears near Saturn on the 7th and 8th; is near Jupiter and Neptune on the 10th and 11th, although it does not fit into a binocular field with Neptune; fits snugly in a binocular field with Uranus on the 14th and 15th; fits in the same binocular field with the Pleiades on the 15th; is near Mars and Aldebaran on the 16th and 17th; is in the same binocular field as Messier 35 on the 18th; passes Pollux on the 20th; is in the same binocular field as the Beehive cluster on the 21st; passes Regulus on September 23rd; and appears high above Venus on the 24th during brighter twilight.
On September 14th, the moon covers or occults Uranus for sky watchers in north central Africa, Europe, and northwest Asia.
This is followed by the moon occulting Dschubba on the 30th from Indonesia and northern Australia.
This evening, the crescent moon, 31% illuminated, is about 15° up in the southwest one hour after sunset. It is 2.6° to the lower left of Zubenelgenubi – the Scorpion’s southern pincer. This month, the moon is not pinched by the Scorpion. Notice the creature’s forehead – Dschubba – nearly 15° to the upper left of the lunar orb. Tomorrow evening, the moon is immediately to the right of that star.
Mercury was at its evening greatest elongation on August 27th. Today the speedy planet is lost in bright twilight setting 44 minutes after the sun. It passes between the sun and Earth (inferior conjunction) on the 23rd, moving into the morning sky. It has a conjunction with Venus early next month, but this occurs during bright twilight.
Venus slowly slips from the morning sky, appearing lower each morning at the same time. Today it rises 72 minutes before sunrise. It is low in the east-northeast at about 45 minutes before sunup. By month’s end this falls to 31 minutes. Venus passes Regulus on the 5th. The moon makes a wide pass on the 24th.
Mars rises nearly four hours after sunset on September 1st. By and hour before sunrise, it is over two-thirds of the way up in the southeast, near the star Aldebaran. Both are about the same red-orange color, but Mars is brighter and above the star.
The Red Planet is marching eastward against Taurus. It is in the same binocular field as the Hyades star cluster and its daily change is easily spotted. Mars passes Aldebaran on the 7th and the moon is nearby on the 16th and 17th. During the second half of the month, the planet trudges toward the Bull’s Horns, Elnath and Zeta Tauri, ending the month 6.7° to the lower right of Elnath and 5.4° to the upper right of Zeta.
This morning, one hour before sunrise, find Mars over two-thirds of the way up in the southeast, above Aldebaran and the Hyades star cluster. It is 5.3° to the upper right of Aldebaran.
Jupiter is that “bright star” less than halfway up in the southwest during morning twilight. The planet is lower in the sky each morning and by month’s end it is low in the west-southwest.
The Jovian Giant is retrograding in Cetus, moving westward into Pisces on September 2nd. The starfield behind the planet is a dearth of bright, familiar stars.
This evening the planet rises about 75 minutes after sunset. It is about 15° above the eastern horizon by two hours after the sun sets. Jupiter reaches opposition on the 26th, rising at sunset. Four evenings later, it is over 10° above the horizon at an hour after sundown.
The moon is nearby on the evening of the 10th through the morning of the 11th.
The Venus to Jupiter gap widens toward 180° so that Jupiter sets before Venus rises, leaving Mars with either world – a two-planet morning parade before sunrise, although Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars are in the sky around the midnight hour. At the end of next month, Mars is the lone bright morning planet in the sky before daybreak.
Unlike the Venus – Saturn opposition, both planets are easily visible near the horizon. Follow them as the gap widens throughout the month, Venus low in the east-northeast and Jupiter near the west horizon.
This morning the planet largely stands alone with that dim starfield. The brightest stars within the box of the accompanying chart are Deneb Algedi – “the tail of Cetus” – to the lower left of the planet. Alrescha – “the cord” in Pisces – is to the upper left, while Algenib – meaning “the side” is part of Pegasus to the upper right of Jupiter. The other stars are dimmer with catalog names, such as Iota Ceti (ι Cet on the chart), Eta Ceti (η Cet), Theta Ceti (θ Cet), and Omega Piscium (ω Psc), hardly household names.
Saturn is over two weeks after its solar opposition. An hour after sunset at the start of the month, it is less than 20° up in the southeast. It sets the next morning over 40 minutes before sunrise and before Venus rises. Each evening the planet is higher in the sky. By month’s end, it is nearly one-third of the way up in the south-southeast, noticeably west of Nashira.
The moon is nearby on the 7th and the 8th.
The morning planet parade that had five planets during June is shifting toward the evening sky. By year’s end five planets are assembled again after sunset, in this order: Venus, Mercury, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars.
Saturn is retrograding in Capricornus that continues into next month. The planet is slowly moving from Nashira to Iota Capricorni. Use a binocular to watch the planet slowly change its place compared to those stars.
This evening, find the planet with Deneb Algedi and Nashira less than 20° above the southeast horizon. Saturn leads the planet parade westward, followed by Jupiter and Mars. Venus and Mercury step into the evening sky from the sunset point, leading the group westward during late December.
- 2023, December 21: Winter Solstice, Great Conjunction Plus 3 YearsDecember 21, 2023: Winter begins in the northern hemisphere. Jupiter and Saturn are visible in the evening sky three years after their Great Conjunction.
- 2023, December 20: Morning Star, Evening Moon Nears JupiterDecember 20, 2023: Brilliant Venus is in the southeast before daybreak. After nightfall the gibbous moon nears Jupiter in the southeast sky.
- 2023, December 19: A Scorpion Fumble, Moon MidwayDecember 19, 2023: Before sunrise, Venus appears below the Scorpion’s claws. After sundown, the moon is nearly midway from Saturn to Jupiter.
- 2023, December 18: Pinched VenusDecember 18, 2023: Look for Venus between the Scorpion’s claws in the southeast before sunrise. The thick crescent moon is in the evening sky with Jupiter and Saturn.
- 2023, December 17: Celestial PairsDecember 17, 2023: Before sunrise, Venus passes Zubenelgenubi, a planet-star conjunction. After sundown, Saturn and crescent moon are paired, a planet-moon conjunction.