EYES ON THE NIGHT SKY: SEPTEMBER 2019
Welcome to this month’s edition of Eyes on the Night Sky. As the summer draws to a close, the darker evenings herald the start of the astronomy season. For those who enjoy looking at the Milky Way, it will arch majestically from north to south as it emerges into the darkening sky – always a wonderful sight to behold if sitting outdoors in the evening. It is well worth a trip to a dark site to see the complex structure of our galaxy.
The Zodiacal light returns this month but you will have to be up early to see it – choose a clear, moonless morning at around 3.30am and look to the east. The first two weeks of September is the best time to see it.
Moon, Saturn and Summer Triangle
There is a pleasant conjunction on 8th September, where the waxing gibbous Moon will be close to Saturn at a distance of 3° (about two fingers wide, held out at arm’s length). Saturn’s rings will be opened wide and will be worth studying with a telescope. Wait for the still moments to view cloud detail on the gas giant’s surface and rings. The Summer Triangle will also be visible as the conjunction passes below.
Full Moon falls on 14th September and New Moon on 28th September.
A nice binocular asterism is a rarely known one. It doesn’t have an official designation, except for “Eddie’s Coaster” - it was discovered by Eddie Carpenter, British amateur astronomer.
Through binoculars, 20 stars can be seen in a ‘roller coaster’ style track above the two stars Ruchbah and Navi, which makes up part of the constellation of Cassiopeia. Although the stars are faint to our eyes (it can only be seen with binoculars and small telescopes) it contains mainly of F and G main sequence stars, 3 supergiants, a carbon and binary star and a multiple star!
To find out more about stars and their classifications, watch this short video:
Spiral Cluster in Perseus
Credit: Dss2 Giuseppe Donatiello
A pleasing telescope target for this month is the Spiral Cluster (Messier 34). This bright cluster is situated 1500 light years away in the constellation of Perseus and can be spotted with the unaided eye in a dark sky.
Use a small telescope with low magnifications to reveal 20 stars – larger telescopes will show up to 80; study how many of them are in pairs. This cluster contains up to 400 stars and is the seventh closest Messier object to Earth. However, it will take 26,791,500 years to get there by the average space craft!
Fun, Family-Friendly Stargazing events at Elan Valley this Autumn
If you would like to know more about stargazing, the Elan Valley are running some fun, family-friendly events this autumn, funded by the Regional Tourism Engagement Fund (RTEF)’s “Day2Stay” project. Explore night wildlife at Gilfach Nature Reserve on 19th September or join Kama Roberts on 29th September as she takes you on a short storytelling walk of the origins of the constellations under the stunning night skies of the Elan Valley. If you would like to know how to get started with stargazing, there is a star party on 1st October which includes a light supper of soup, a talk on stargazing with binoculars with Steve Tonkin and if clear, an observing session under the stars. All events require booking, click here for more information.