At dusk on the 3rd, the First Quarter Moon sits around 5 degrees to the left of the reddish star Antares in the South-Southwest. The name of the star is derived from ancient Greek and means “rival to Ares.” Ares was the Greek god of war and later, the Romans wrapped together their god Mars with Ares. So, with the red planet named Mars, the similarly colored, brilliant star became “anti-Mars” or “anti-Ares” and thus fulfilling the rivalry definition. Antares is also known as the Heart of the Scorpion because of its centered position in the constellation Scorpius. And, when viewed with the naked eye, this massive, red supergiant appears as a single star. However, it is actually a binary! Its smaller counterpart (Antares B) disappears in the glare of the greater giant (Antares A).
If you have a clear view of the East-Northeastern horizon, Venus blazes the dawn haze of the 5th with the star Regulus at its side. You will probably need binoculars to eke out the faint star from the brilliance of Venus as the brightening sky takes over.
In the pre-dawn hours of the 7th, a different ruddy disc pairs with Mars--the star Aldebaran. These two shine at almost the same brightness. However, as you might expect, the planet named for the god of war, Mars, wins. Later that evening, above the Southern horizon, Saturn glides next to the upper right of the Waxing Gibbous Moon.
On the 9th, about 45 minutes after sunset in the Southeast, the almost-full Moon takes a seat between Saturn and Jupiter. Definitely worth a look!
This month’s Full Moon, called the Harvest Moon, gleams on the 10th. The name derives from the fact that this full moon rises early and is especially bright, which allowed farmers to continue harvesting crops well into the night.
The still-dark morning hours of the 11th presents the Waning Gibbous Moon and Jupiter dropping into the West-Southwestern horizon.
During the late evening of the 16th, the Moon and Mars rise together with roughly 4 degrees between them in the closest Moon/planet pairing of September. But, as the night moves past midnight, the Moon, Mars, and the red star Aldebaran form a line in the East- Northeast. Of note to those with binoculars, Neptune will be visible all night in the Northeastern sky. The later the night gets, the higher the bluish planet will get—and easier to locate.
The Last Quarter Moon graces us the 17th.
Just before dawn on the 21st, the Moon is around 3 degrees to the upper left of open cluster M44, the Beehive Cluster. This will be a great marker to see this large group of stars within one of the closest clusters to us.
Autumn officially begins for the Northern Hemisphere at 6:04 PM our time on the 22nd.
The New Moon occurs on the 25th.
Jupiter is visible all night the 26th. This is its closest to Earth since October 1963 and with the shadowed Moon, this will be a prime opportunity to see it and its dark belts and lighter zones—and maybe catch a glimpse of the Great Red Spot if you have a telescope! With binoculars, you should see 2 or 3 of Jupiter’s moons. A telescope will reveal all four of the bigger ones (Callisto, Europa, Io, and Ganymede). The best time to view the planet is when it’s high above the Southern horizon just before or after midnight.
The month ends with the Moon and Antares huddled together again on the 30th. The two slip into the Southwestern horizon at dusk with the Moon slightly above the star.
If you have that open Eastern horizon, a morning before sunrise could treat you to the Zodiacal light. The cone-shaped glow comes from the specific conditions in which sunlight reflects off tiny meteoric dust particles that fill our entire solar system. It usually appears when it is moonless—which happens at the very beginning and then the last week of this month.
Happy sky watching!
Some Terms to Remember: Waxing is the moon getting brighter (heading into the Full Moon). Waning is the moon getting darker (heading into the New Moon). Gibbous is an over-Half-but-not-quite-Full Moon (or, as I like to call it, a three-quarter Moon).
For those of you with your sights on the stars, mark your calendar and attend NASA Solar System Ambassador Les Hastings’ Gorge Skies/NASA presentations starting at 7 PM on the second Saturday of each month at Skamania Lodge, 1131 SW Skamania Lodge Way, Stevenson. For more information, contact Les Hastings at