This month doesn’t hold as many bombastic astronomic sights (eclipses, meteors, and conjunctions, oh my!), but there’s plenty worth heading out on a clear night to see. Additionally, this month signals a season change, from summer to autumn in the northern hemisphere and from winter to spring in the southern ones. This means your chances to see the aurora begin to shift hemispheres, and it’s the perfect time to plan your aurora borealis viewing trip for winter 2019. Check out our aurora guides to get started.
Here are the top night sky events happening in September 2018. Be sure to use one of our stargazing guides to get away from light pollution and improve your chances of seeing these night sky events. (Don’t see your city? Email us and request a guide!)
September 7: Neptune at Opposition
Photo credit: ESO/P. Weilbacher (AIP)
Neptune, though invisible to the naked eye, is optimally placed for viewing in early September. On September 7th, Neptune will be at “opposition” – meaning it will be high in the southeastern sky in the constellation Aquarius – and is also near “perigee,” when it appears the brightest (and bluest).
You’ll need a telescope to see Neptune, so check with your local observatory or astronomy group to see if they’re hosting any events or highlighting Neptune during this weekend.
September 9: Piscid Meteor Shower Peak
Photo credit: Josh Beasley via Flickr
If you had an opportunity to view the Perseids meteor shower in August, you might be excited to try and see another set of ‘shooting stars. The Piscid Meteor shower, while not as frequent or intense as the Perseids, peaks on September 9th and again on September 21st.
On September 9th, look for meteors in the constellation Pisces, in the southeastern sky. Meteors may peak at a rate as high as 10 per hour. On September 21st, the second peak of the Piscids will be as frequent as 5 per hour. Viewing the Piscid meteor shower is a good chance to practice your patience!
September 13: Close Approach of Jupiter & the Moon
On September 13th, Jupiter will once again make a close approach with the moon. Appearing in the southwestern sky, the young moon (five days old) and the gas giant will appear about 4° apart. While this is too far apart to view through a telescope, you should be able to see the pair with your naked eyes or aided by binoculars.
September 17: Close Approach of Saturn & the Moon
Saturn and the Moon meat again on September 17th, getting within 2° of each other in the southwestern sky. You’ll be able to see them with your eyes, or a pair of binoculars. For most of the world, these two celestial bodies will appear at their closest in the middle of the night.
September 19: Close Approach of Mars & the Moon
Mars continues to draw the eye through September, a bright orange dot in the southern sky. On September 9th, the moon will draw close to Mars, passing within 5° of one another. As the moon will be 11 days old, it will be easy to spot the pair.
September 22: September Equinox
Photo credit: Mike Lewinski via Flickr
On September 22nd, the seasons officially changed. The September Equinox – called the “autumnal equinox” in the northern hemisphere and the “vernal equinox” in the southern hemisphere – signals the point where earth experiences roughly equal lengths of day and night.
While there is no night sky event to view for the equinox, it’s a cool time to consider our planet’s place in the solar system and how we orbit around the sun.
September 24: Venus at its Brightest
Photo credit: Helgi Halldórsson via Flickr
As one of the brightest objects in the sky (usually third behind the sun and moon), Venus is always eye-catching. On September 24th, she’ll appear particularly bright due to its phase and placement in the night sky.
Look for Venus in the southwestern sky just above the horizon. You may need to move to a higher elevation or find an open space to admire our planetary neighbor as she shines most brightly for this time of year.
That’s our round-up for September!
Featured image credit: James Jordan via Flickr