The Harvest Moon appears on October 23. Credit: Jane Fearby
Jupiter and Uranus remain side-by-side in the night sky. This weekend they will be less than a degree apart as Uranus appears just above bright Jupiter in the east. Last Sunday I let my kids stay up an hour past their bedtime and they got their first look at Uranus. Uranus look so much like a dim, light-blue star, that without a guidepost it is truly tricky to find. The two planets will remain within a couple degrees of each other for a few months and then have another unmistakable close encounter at the beginning of the New Year.
September 22 brings the fall equinox and the first day of autumn for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. Every day at sunset we’ve watched the sun reach a point on the horizon farther south than it was the day before. On the equinoxes, the sun sets directly west (and rises directly east). The sun will continue to set farther south every evening (and set earlier, too, because it’s cutting a shorter path across the sky) until it reaches its point farthest south on the horizon and the winter solstice occurs.
September’s full moon is called the Harvest Moon and it hits peak fullness at 2:17 a.m. PDT on September 23, about six hours after the equinox. The nights around the full moon are never good for stargazing because of the moon’s brilliance. During full phase, the moon shines at magnitude -12.6, washing out nearby nebulae, galaxies, and stars. But full moon is a good time to enjoy the outdoors later into the evening, and as the cool autumn air creeps in, it may be your last chance for a few months to walk while the moon is full.
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Kelly Kizer Whitt loves clean, clear, and dark skies. Kelly studied English and Astronomy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked for Astronomy magazine. She is currently the Feature Writer for Astronomy and Space at Suite101.com. You can follow her on Twitter attwitter.com/Astronomommy