September to provide amazing sights for Arizona sky watchers

Aug 26, 2020, 2:00 PM
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)...
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

With September right around the corner, get set for some interesting sights in our Arizona skies!

Each year, I look forward to cooler weather, the end of the monsoon and a return to some of the best weather in the entire nation as the autumnal equinox returns Sept. 22 at 6:30 a.m.

To me, there is something magical as Arizona transforms from a heat engine, to more tranquil and clear skies in September and October.

As your navigator on the highway to the heavens, we begin our September journey in the sky with a review of the moon!

September will begin with a nearly full moon.

This is known as the Full Corn Moon and is full for us in Arizona at 10:22 p.m. on Sept. 1.

This majestic moon will rise in the sky around 7:05 p.m. and be a great target for your cell phone camera or telescope.

Click here for a map of the moon to help you identify many of the major surface features, from the great ‘mare” or seas, to many of the largest of named craters.

The moon then wanes and moves on to its last quarter phase Sept. 10. The thinning moonlight will place the moon into a thin crescent, rising in the early morning sky, until it returns to another “new” phase Sept. 17.

This is considered the best time to view many of the fainter sky objects which adorn our Arizona skies, like the best of the Milky Way.

The parade of planets continues in September as we’ll have great views of two of the largest planets in our solar system.

Look low in the southeast sky at dusk as Jupiter and Saturn are easy to see with the naked eye and remain great objects to view in the telescope.

September is also the month to begin some serious observations of the red planet — Mars!

Mars will rise in the east around 9 p.m. and is rapidly closing in on Earth, for another great opposition in the middle of October.

Even with a small telescope, you will get to view the shrinking southern polar cap and many of the surface features on this mysterious world.

Click here for a review of the current Mars opposition for 2020 and here for the best current images of Mars.

Mars will be very bright as we move into October, but now is the time to begin your observation sessions.

Arizona has a rich history of Mars observations, with the Lowell Observatory and its founder, Perceval Lowell.

Click here for more information on Lowell and what he did to advance research and observation on Mars.

Our last planet of the month is Neptune!

Neptune is the farthest of the major planet, number 8 in distance from the sun and one of the most amazing!

Neptune comes to opposition on Sept. 11 as it rises at sunset and will be in the sky all night long.

The planet is faint and appears blue in color in a moderate-sized telescope.

Neptune was discovered in September of 1846 and is one of the largest of the ice giants with a diameter of some 30,000 miles in diameter and a mass of 17 times the Earth. It has 14 satellites and there may be many more.

Click here is a finder chart for this elusive planet.

To print your own monthly star chart, click here.

To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.

Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday morning at 3 a.m.

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