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Thursday 3 September 2015  •   20 Hazel Moon 2015

Viewing the night sky in Hazel Moon 2015

15 August - 13 September 2015

Map of night sky at full moon: 29 August, 19:36 UT
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Hazel Moon 2015

On 4 September, Mercury reaches 27°E of the sun in the evening sky, a great view from the southern hemisphere, where it will be visible for a couple of weeks either side of that date. Almost impossible to see from northern lands.

Saturn is further out in the evening sky, between the stars of Libra and Scorpius, and setting in the late evening. The half moon is nearby on 22 August. By the end of the month, it is becoming hard to see from northern parts of Earth, being low down in the twilight in the south-west.

Neptune comes to opposition on 1 September, and is closest to Earth on 31 August, 4330 million kilometres away, or just over four light hours.

At Dark Moon on 13 September, a partial eclipse of the sun is visible from southern Africa (at or soon after sunrise) and much of Eastern Antarctica. In Cape Town, 30% of the sun is covered at 07:42 (05:42 UT).

In the early hours of 2 September, the moon occults Uranus as seen from the South Island of New Zealand.

Mars rises further into the morning sky and, during the month, Venus joins it, very brightly. By the morning of 2 September, you should be able to see them together in the pre-dawn twilight, with Venus almost nine degrees south of Mars. The old moon is near Venus on 10 September. By the end of the month, you may just be able to see Jupiter in the east, below Venus and Mars. The very old crescent is near it on 12 September.

The month ahead: Vine Moon 2015

14 September - 12 October 2015

Map of night sky at full moon: 28 September, 03:51 UT
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Vine Moon 2015

The morning sky is full of planets, and at full moon on 28 September, there is a total eclipse of the moon visible from Europe, parts of the Middle East, most of Africa and the Americas (exc far NW North America). The total eclipse lasts from 02:11 to 03:23 UT (03:11 to 04:23 in Britain and Ireland), with the partial phase starting at 01:07 UT (02:07 in B&I) and finishing at 04:27 UT (05:27 in B&I). Before the partial eclipse starts, the Earth’s penumbra begins to darken the left edge of the moon (right edge as seen from the southern hemisphere), as the Earth’s penumbra begins to cover the moon.

Venus, Jupiter and Mars climb further from the sunrise, with Venus much the brightest of the three. On 25 September, Mars passes three quarters of a degree north of Regulus, the bright star in Leo, currently brighter than Mars.

The best views come towards the end of the month, when the planets rise earlier before the sun, and thus are in darker skies. In addition, the old moon swings past, as it does late in the month, and Mercury emerges rapidly into the pre-dawn sky, well seen from the northern hemisphere.

On 8 October, the moon is near Venus and occults it just before sunrise over central and eastern Australia, and during daylight over New Zealand. As seen from Sydney, the moon covers Venus at 05:31 (18:31 UT, 7 Oct) and uncovers it at 06:54 (19:54 UT), with the sun now above the horizon.

On the morning of 9 October, the waning moon is in a very pleasing grouping with Venus, Jupiter, Mars and the bright star Regulus. Mercury is between this group and the dawn.

On the morning of 11 October, the very old moon is beside Mercury, a great chance to see the innermost planet. The moon occults Mercury just after sunrise over far SE South America.

Saturn is fading from the evening sky, and is especially hard to see from the north of Earth, low down in the SW. The crescent moon is nearby on 18 and 19 September.

Uranus comes to opposition on 12 October. At its nearest to Earth on 11 October, it is 2840 million kilometres or 158 light minutes away. Before sunrise on 29 September, the moon occults Uranus over extreme SE Africa.

William Morris
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