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Thursday 18 September 2014  •   24 Vine Moon 2014

Viewing the night sky in Vine Moon 2014

26 August - 24 September 2014

Map of night sky at full moon: 9 September, 01:38 UT
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Vine Moon 2014

On the evening of 31 August, the moon is near Mars and Saturn in the western evening sky, low down as seen from the northern hemisphere. The moon occults Saturn over West Africa and (in daylight) over the Caribbean and nearby North and South America. As seen from Lagos, the moon covers Saturn from 20:00 to 21:12 UT (21:00 to 22:12 West Africa Time). Mars, now a little fainter than Saturn, moves on into Scorpius on 13 September. On 11 September, the Earth-Mars distance becomes as great as the Sun-Mars distance.

On 14 September, the moon rises amongst the Hyades, and is very close to Aldebaran.

Jupiter emerges further from behind the sun into the eastern morning sky. For the first part of the month, you can see it together with Venus in the east. Venus is over on the far side of the sun, but still brighter than Jupiter, and still visible low in the eastern morning sky, below the giant planet. On 5 September, Venus passes 0.7° north of Regulus, the bright star of Leo. On the morning of 20 September, the waning crescent moon is near Jupiter; by this time, Venus has sunk too low in the twilight to be seen without difficulty.

Mercury reaches 26.3°E of the sun in the western evening sky on 21 September, the day before the equinox. It is not easy to see Mercury this time from the northern hemisphere, as the horizon is at a very low angle with the plane of the solar system, and Mercury is in any case currently well south of this plane (pretty much equivalent to the ecliptic, the projection of Earth’s orbit into space, and thus the path of the sun among the other stars). A great view, however, from the southern hemisphere, especially as Mars and Saturn are in the sky above Mercury. Mercury itself looks a little like a twin planet, but the other point of light is in fact the bright star Spica in Virgo (to the right of Mercury, and not as bright as the planet). Mars, further out from the sun, also has a twin effect going on, albeit not so close, as it is in the vicinity of the bright red star Antares in Scorpius.

On 11 September, the moon is very close to Uranus, occulting it from Iceland, the Faroes, Shetland and northern Norway. As seen from Lerwick, the far southern edge of the moon covers Uranus from about 02:22 to 02:28 BST. You will need binoculars or better to see Uranus, just too faint for the naked eye.

On 29 August, Neptune comes to opposition and its closest to Earth this year, 4333 million kilometres or just over four light hours away. Neptune is a blue ice giant with a diameter less than four times that of the Earth. It can be seen from Earth only through telescopes. Its position today, 46 minutes of arc north-east of the star Sigma Aquarii, may help you find it.

The month ahead: Ivy Moon 2014

25 September - 23 October 2014

Map of night sky at full moon: 8 October, 10:50 UT
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Ivy Moon 2014

The new moon on 25 September is well nigh impossible to see from northern lands, due to the low angle of the ecliptic with the horizon. If you are further south, and can see it, you will find Mercury and the bright star Spica to its left. Mercury soon disappears from southern skies, brightening as it moves towards this side of the sun. Saturn is moving more slowly towards the sunset, and is still visible from the northern hemisphere as well, albeit low in the south-west. The moon is close by on the evening of 27 September, and occults it over the north Pacific (Honolulu) and (in daylight) over Japan and nearby continental Asia. As seen from Honolulu, the moon covers Saturn from 05:35 to 06:27 UT, 28 Sep (19:35 to 18:27 HST, 27 Sep). Not much further out from the sun is Mars, and the moon passes north of it on the evening of 29 September. In turn Mars is north of the red giant star Antares in Scorpius, not quite so bright as Mars. There is a total eclipse of the moon on 8 October, visible from the Pacific and adjacent lands. The total eclipse lasts from 10:25 to 11:23 UT, that is 20:25 to 21:23 in Sydney and 00:25 to 01:23 in Honolulu (all 8 Oct). With the moon in eclipse, use binoculars or a telescope to look out for Uranus, just to its south. You may even just be able to see the faint planet with the naked eye if you have dark enough skies. The eclipsed moon occults Uranus as seen from the north pole from 10:11 to 10:51 UT.

At dark moon on 23 October, there is a partial eclipse of the sun visible from North America and the extreme far east of Russia. The greatest eclipse is in the Canadian High Arctic, near Qikiqtaq (King William Island) where, at Uqsuqtuuq (Gjoa Haven), the sun will cover 74% of the moon at 21:50 UT (15:50 MDT), with them very low on the south-western horizon, and setting a few minutes later as a dramatic crescent. As seen from Anchorage, the sun covers 55% of the moon at maximum eclipse at 21:12 UT (13:12 AKDT); Vancouver 56% at 21:58 UT (14:58 PDT); San Francisco 39% at 22:16 UT (15:16 PDT); México 5% at 23:09 UT (18:09 CDT); Winnipeg 60% at 22:24 UT (17:24 CDT); New Orleans 21% at 23:01 (18:01 CDT) with the sun setting during the waning part of the eclipse for Winnipeg and New Orleans; Chicago 44% at 22:44 (17:44 CDT) with sunset just after maximum eclipse; for Atlanta the sun sets just before maximum eclipse; for Ottawa, New York and Miami, the eclipse is just starting when the sun sets, and no eclipse is seen at all from Honolulu, Québec, Boston and Nassau.

Mars passes into Ophiuchus on 25 September, though initially still close to Antares, and then into Sagittarius on 21 October. Ceres passes less than half a degree north of Saturn on 5 October.

Jupiter rises around midnight, and is prominent in the morning sky. On 16 October, it crosses into the constellation Leo, and on the morning of 18 October, the moon is nearby.

On 7 October, Uranus comes to opposition and its nearest to Earth this year, 2844 million kilometres or 158 light minutes away. At magnitude 5.71, it is probably just too faint to be visible with the naked eye, but do try, especially if you have good, dark skies. It is about three degrees south of the star Delta Piscium.

On the night of 11/12 October, the moon passes through the Hyades.

Look out for the Orionid meteors around 21 or 22 October.

Venus is over on the far side of the sun, and out of view.

William Morris
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