It’s hard to follow up a month like August: every year the August night sky wows with the Perseids shower and a host of other astronomical events. But this year September does its best: the September night sky is full of interesting astronomical events.
This month you’ll be treated to a series of planet-gazing opportunities, a few other celestial objects, and of course the September equinox. Whether you’re new to stargazing or just seeking some of the other interesting astronomical sights (Neptune! 3 Juno!), there’s plenty to see in the night sky in September.
Additionally, September signals a season change. This means your chances to see the aurora begin to shift hemispheres; it’s the perfect time to plan your trip to see the northern lights for those in the northern hemisphere.
Before jumping into the list, I want to provide some recommendations for telescopes and binoculars; some of the events this month will require having one if you want to see them. The link above includes guides to help you choose a telescope or binoculars at any level – from budget-conscious beginner to enthusiast willing to invest.
Ready to learn more about what you can see in the September night sky this year? Read on for 10 of the most interesting astronomical events in the night sky in September 2022.
This post was originally published in August 2018, and was updated most recently in August 2022.
Featured image credit: Lukas Schlagenhauf via Flickr
September 1: Peak of the Aurigid Meteor Shower
Auriga is one of my favorite winter constellations: its big bright stars are easy to spot in the sky. And while it’s not winter yet, Auriga is beginning to rise in the sky. With it comes its own meteor shower.
The Aurigid meteor shower is definitely a minor shower; its maximum rate (ZHR) is only about six meteors per hour. That said, if you’re out stargazing on September 1st, you might spot a few of them! The moon will be just 31% illuminated and shouldn’t pose any interference to starting September with shooting stars.
September 7: Asteroid 3 Juno at Opposition
Love pulling out your stargazing equipment to try and spot more distant and smaller objects in the solar system? Here’s your first chance in September!
On the night of September 7th, asteroid 3 Juno will reach opposition; that is, it will be on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun, and thus brightly lit and easier to spot than at other times of the year. As you might guess from its low number, 3 Juno was the third asteroid discovered, way back in in 1804, by German astronomer Karl Harding. It’s one of the 20 largest asteroids overall and two largest stony-type asteroids in the main asteroid belt.
While 3 Juno is larger than many asteroids, it is still quite small, and you will need a telescope or binoculars to spot it!
September 8: Conjunction of the Moon and Saturn
Continuing to explore the solar system this month, the next night is another opportunity to gaze upon a large celestial body. Specifically, Saturn and the Moon will appear close together in the early morning sky on September 8th – this is called a conjunction. At their closest, they’ll be 3°56′ apart in the sky.
Given that this event happens the morning after your best chance to see asteroid 3 Juno, you might view them in the same session. However, the Moon is approaching its full phase and will be brightly (96%) illuminated so may make it harder to spot these various astronomical events depending on the atmospheric conditions where you’re viewing.
September 9: Peak of the ε-Perseid Meteor Shower
September is not known for its meteor showers. Even those do that occur have a hard time comparing to the show the Perseids put on in August. Still, any chance to spot them is worth trying if the skies are clear!
On September 9th, you can try to spot ε-Perseids meteors. Despite their name, these meteors are likely not caused by the same comet (109P/Swift-Tuttle) as the August Perseids; instead, they simply appear to radiate from the same point in the night sky – which is how meteor showers get their names.
At their maximum, you can look for roughly 5 ε-Perseids per hour, coming from the general area of the constellation Perseus high in the southwest sky. Like we said – not as spectacular as Perseids, but still interesting!
September 11: Conjunction of the Moon and Jupiter
After an intermission for a few meteors, the parade of planets continues for the rest of September.
Next up is Jupiter’s first great viewing opportunity of the month (one of two); on the night of September 11, the Moon and Jupiter will be in conjunction and appear close together in the sky. At their closest, they’ll be a mere 1°48′ apart – about twice the width of your pinky when held at arm’s length.
It won’t be hard to spot either – the Moon will be 96% illuminated and Jupiter is always eye-catching – so this is a great event if you’re trying to stargaze with kids or love moon-gazing while out under the stars.
September 14: Lunar Occultation of Uranus
I’ve been mentioning it all year, but the lunar occultation(s) of Uranus are some of the most exciting astronomical events to try and see – and we’re finally entering the time of year when they’re visible from land (rather than over the ocean)!
On the night of September 14th, the Moon will pass in front of Uranus (telescope necessary), and this “occultation” will be visible across Europe, the Caucasus, and North Africa. If you’re in that region, I recommend checking out this guide to seeing this specific lunar occultation.
September 16: Conjunction of the Moon & Mars
As the Moon begins to shift back toward its New phase (and my preferred time of each month for stargazing), there are still astronomy events worth seeing in the September night sky. When the moon is about 56% illuminated on the night of September 16th, the Moon and Mars will be at conjunction and appear near one another in the sky. They’ll be 3°36′ apart at their closest, so easy to spot together.
September 22: September Equinox
On September 22nd this year, 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.
Learn more about the September Equinox and how it is marked in different parts of the world.
September 26: Jupiter at Opposition
I mentioned a second opportunity to spot Jupiter in the September night sky, and here it is to wrap up the month. In the evening of September 26th, Jupiter will reach opposition and be brightly lit by the Sun opposite it in the sky.
While Jupiter is always bright and easy to spot, this is a particularly great night; grab your telescope or binoculars for an even better view of the stormy bands and many moons of our solar system’s great gas giant.
Do you have questions or comments about these various astronomy events in the September night sky? Let me know in the comments!