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The Skies of September, 2022

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September Skies

by Dick Cookman

September 4, 2022

Highlights: Comet Journal, Martian Landers, Meteor Showers, Autumn Equinox, Planet Plotting, Sept. Moon

Focus Constellations: Ursa Minor, Draco, Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Perseus, Camelopardalis, Ursa Major, Canes Venatici, Coma Berenices, Bootes, Corona Borealis, Hercules, Lyra, Cygnus

Comet Journals

The brightest comet of September at 8th magnitude is Comet C/2017 K2 (PanSTARRS). It is moving southward, attempting escape from the claws of Scorpius on the southwest horizon in early evening. It was closest to Earth at 168 million miles on July 14, 2022 and will move into southern skies in November and reach perihelion on December 19, 2022. In September, Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) is between Hercules and Bootes. Although quite dim at 11th magnitude, it may reach naked eye visibility as a Christmas comet and achieve maximum brilliance when at perihelion in early January.

Mars Landers

Satellite imaging and geologic data derived from sampling and observations of the Perseverance rover in Jezero Crater indicate that the crater was formed by a meteorite impact on a rock surface comprised of plutonic igneous rocks exposed after a long period of erosion. The crater was then filled or partially filled with rock formed from volcanic eruptions. Later activity of deposition by streams or other surface water bodies added some water-lain sedimentary deposits. It is in the latter deposits that mission scientists are focusing current rover activity in the search for conditions favorable to ancient life.

Insight rover’s available energy will be concentrated on the seismometer. iThis will maximize data collection at the expense of extending rover operations for a longer time. Because ~1500 marsquakes have been recorded to date, extensive monitoring right now may provide data from which more information about possible magma movement in the mantle can be derived.

During its first billion years, Mars was bombarded by huge impactors that created tremendous craters. One is Gale Crater where the Curiosity rover is exploring for signs of ancient water as it looks for clues to the planet’s potentially habitable past. The origin of 3.4-mile-tall (5-kilometer) Mount Sharp, the crater’s central peak which the rover is now climbing, is one of the Martian puzzles that mission scientists wish to solve. Sampling and observations made in the last 10 years are beginning to shed light. It appears that the peak is an erosional remnant of a thick sequence of water-lain sedimentary layers topped by a second sequence of windblown deposits representing a long interval of aridity similar to that of present day Mars.

Autumnal Equinox

The equinox occurs at 9:04PM on the 22nd. The Full Moon is on the 10th and the Harvest Moon is defined as the full moon nearest the Autumnal Equinox making the September Full Moon a Harvest Moon this year!

Meteor Showers

Early September has a couple of minor showers. Afterwards there is a dearth of activity other than some erratic fireballs. The northern hemisphere gets the Epsilon Perseids, a shadow of the August Perseids.

  • September 9: Epsilon Perseids. Active September 5 – 11, Radiant 3h12m +40°, ZHR 5, 64km/sec. Waxing Gibbous Moon. Progenitor: unknown long period comet.

Planet Plottings

Mercury sets less than an hour after the Sun in early September when Saturn (+0.3) may be seen low in the southeast in Capricornus. In the eastern sky in Pisces, Neptune (+7.8) and a much brighter Jupiter (-2.7) are rising. In the northeastern sky, Uranus (+5.7) in Aries rises at about 10:PM EDT and Mars (-0.1) in Taurus rises at midnight. Neptune is at Opposition on the 16th and Jupiter’s Opposition is on the 26th. At Opposition, the Sun and planet are on the opposite sides of Earth. The planet is high in the southern sky at midnight. Opposition typically provides the best views of planets that are outside of Earth’s orbit.

Brilliant Venus (-3.8) is confined to predawn skies in Leo, rising about 45 minutes before the Sun on the 1st. Mercury is lost in the glow of sunrise after its inferior conjunction with the Sun on the 23rd. On the 24th, Mercury and Venus are about 3.0° apart. At month’s end, Venus rises about 15 minutes before the Sun. Mars is high in the south before sunrise when Uranus, Jupiter, Neptune, and Saturn are in the southwestern sky.

PlanetConstellation(s)MagnitudePlanet PassagesTimeDate
SunLeo, Virgo-26.5New Moon5:55PM EDT9/25
MercuryVirgo+0.5 to +1.6Inferior Conjunction
Venus, 3.2°NNE
3:00AM EDT
8:00PM EDT
VenusLeo, Virgo-3.8Mercury, 3.2°SSW8:00PM EDT9/26
MarsTaurus-0.1 to -0.6   
JupiterPisces-2.7 to -2.8Opposition4:00PM EDT9/26
SaturnCapricornus+0.3 to +0.5   
NeptunePisces, Aquarius7.8Opposition6:00PM EDT9/16

September Moon

September’s New Moon in Virgo on the 25th at 5:55PM EDT is the start of Lunation 1234 which ends 29.43 days later with that of October in Virgo on the 25th at 6:45AM EDT. September’s Full Moon in Aquarius is on the 10th at 5:59AM EDT. It is the “Fruit Moon” and was the “Barley Moon” in Medieval England. Celts called it “Singing Moon”. In China, it is the “Chrysanthemum Moon”. Colonial Americans called it “Harvest Moon” because the rising full Moon follows a low angle above the horizon in September and October, providing light for harvesting the fields well into the evening. The term was probably adopted from Native Americans who harvested corn by the light of the silvery Moon. Of 13 Grandmother Moons during each year, Anishnaabe (Odawa and Ojibwe) first people recognize the 9th Moon as “Waatebagaa-giizis” (Leaves Turning Moon). According to the folks at Earth Haven Farm in Ontario, this Grandmother Moon is the Corn Moon and the cultural teaching that explains the cycle of life and nature for the Corn Moon of Creation is: “Each cob of corn has thirteen rows of multicolored seeds which represent all the spirits waiting to begin their Earth Walk. These will be the future generations for whom we must prepare.”

Lunar Perigee distance (minimum lunar distance) is 226,485 mi. (57.15 Earth radiil) on the 7th at 2:19PM EDT. Lunar Apogee (maximum lunar distance) in August is on the 19th at 10:43AM EDT, when the Moon will be at a distance of 251,379 mi. (63.43 Earth radii).

The waxing gibbous Moon appears to pass Saturn on the 8th and it is waning when passing Neptune on the 10th, Jupiter on the 11th, Uranus on the 14th and Mars on the 16th. The waxing crescent passes Venus and Mercury on the 25th.

PlanetConstellationMagnitudeMoon PassagesMoon PhaseMoon Age
SunVirgo-26.85:55PM EDT, 9/25New0 Days
MercuryVirgo4.15.9°NNE, 10:00AM EDT, 9/25Waxing Crescent29.24 Days
VenusVirgo-3.82.47°NE, 5:00AM EDT, 9/25Waning Crescent29.03 Days
MarsTaurus-0.34.0°N, 10:00PM EDT, 9/16Waning Gibbous20.74 Days
JupiterPisces-2.81.8°S, 11:00AM EDT, 9/11Waning Gibbous15.28 Days
SaturnCapricornus0.44.0°S, 7:00AM EDT, 9/8Waxing Gibbous12.11 Days
UranusAries5.70.8°N, 7:00PM EDT, 9/14Waning Gibbous18.61 Days
NeptuneAquarius7.83.0° S, 3:00PM EDT, 9/10Waning Gibbous14.45 Days

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