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Sunday, 15 September 2019  •  Sunday, 16 Vine Moon 2019

Watching the night sky in Vine Moon 2019

31 August - 28 September 2019

Map of night sky at full moon: 14 September, 04:33 UTC
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Vine Moon 2019

Jupiter shines very brightly in the early and mid-evening sky, drawing slowly ever closer to Saturn against the starry background. On the evenings of 6 and 7 September, the moon is near Jupiter. On the evening of 8 September, the moon is very close to Saturn, and occults it as seen from parts of northern Australia, southern Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. From Darwin, in Australia’s Northern Territory, the moon covers Saturn from 00:08 to 01:20 on the morning of 9 September (8 Sep, 14:38 to 15:50 UTC). From Port Moresby, in Papua New Guinea, the times are 00:56 to 01:55 (14:56 to 15:55 UTC).

On 9 September, the ice giant Neptune comes closest to the Earth: 4327.6 million kilometres, or 4.01 light hours away. On 10 September, it is opposite the sun in the constellation Aquarius, near the naked eye star Phi Aquarii, which it passed just 13 seconds of arc to the south on 6 September. Look for Neptune through good binoculars or a telescope.

On 13 September, Mercury passes close south of Venus, and from southern lands you may just be able to see them very low down in the west immediately after sunset. Venus is the brighter of the two. As the month continues, and again really only from the southern hemisphere, you can watch Mercury climb higher above the sunset, and indeed higher above Venus. On 28 September, Mercury is near Spica, the bright star of Virgo, and is brighter than the star. From the northern hemisphere, the very low angle of the ecliptic (plane of the solar system) at this time of year means that by the time the sun has set long enough for the sky to darken sufficiently, Mercury and Venus have already gone below the horizon themselves.

Mars passes the far side of the sun on 2 September, out of view from Earth, but should just be visible from northern lands low in the eastern morning sky by the end of the month. From these parts you may also be lucky enough to see a very, very thin old moon nearby on 28 September, just north of east, and just north of Mars. You will need a good view of the horizon, and a clear morning. From London, the moon rises at 06:02 BST, and the sun at 06:55, so there should be time to see it, but the moon will be just 13 hours from being completely dark. If you can see it, the moon will be right “on its back”, and it’s also possible that all you will be able to see will be earthshine.

The month ahead: Ivy Moon 2019

29 September - 27 October 2019

Map of night sky at full moon: 13 October, 21:08 UTC
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Ivy Moon 2019

Jupiter shines very brightly in the early evening sky, gradually making its way through the stars towards Saturn over in the constellation Sagittarius. The crescent moon is very close to the north of Jupiter on 3 October. It should be a lovely view, especially with Saturn not far round to the south (as seen from northern lands). On the evening of 5 October, the moon is very close to Saturn, and occults it as seen from Africa, SW of a rough line from Brazzaville to Harare and Maputo. From Cape Town, in South Africa’s Western Cape, the occultation is from 23:39 to 00:23 (21:39 to 22:23 UTC, on 5 Oct).

On the evening of 29 September, it may be possible from southern lands to see the very new crescent moon north of Venus and Mercury.

[It is just possible that Comet Soho (P/2008 Y12) will be visible to the naked eye in the western evening twilight for a few days around the end of September and the start of October.]

On 19 October, Mercury reaches 25°E of the sun in the western evening sky, a fine view from the southern hemisphere, where Mercury will be visible all month. Between Mercury and the sunset is the very bright Venus, and above Mercury is Jupiter. For viewers in northern lands, Mercury remains out of view, but very bright Venus makes an appearance low in the WSW later in the month.

Mars makes its way very slowly into the eastern morning sky, still hard to see from southern lands. From northern lands, you may once more be able to see a very old moon nearby on the last day of the month; as seen from Europe, the moon is below Mars, and is 21 hours away from dark moon, so some crescent should be visible. On 26 October, the more obvious old crescent is above Mars.

Right at the end of the month, Uranus comes closest to the Earth on 27 October: 2817.5 million kilometres, or 2.61 light hours away. It is generally just too faint to see with the naked eye. Look for it through binoculars in the south of the constellation Aries.

Look out for the Orionid meteors on the night 21/22 October, especially after midnight.

William Morris
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