Sunday, September 1, 2013

This Week's Night Sky: September 2-8 2013

If the skies stay clear, it promises to be a great week for observing.

Monday, September 2
The largest planet in our solar system Jupiter rises at 1:37 a.m. Local Time, allowing pre-dawn observers a great chance to see the giant planet shining at magnitude -1.61. Telescopes will easily reveal the planets two darkest cloud belts, as well as the Jovian satellites; Ganymede, Callisto, Io and Europa; orbiting the planet.

The Aurigid Meteor Shower peaked on the first of this month, but keep your eyes peeled for some shooting stars. Although it won't be as spectacular as last month's Perseids, observers can expect to see up to 14 meteors per hour due to the absence of the Moon. So far it has been producing more meteors than previously expected, so you never know how many you might see!

Tuesday, September 3
September is a great month to turn your attention to the constellation of Cygnus the Swan. Try and locate the open cluster M39, just one of the many star clusters located within the constellation.

It's a sure sign that Winter is on the way when you see the constellation Orion the Hunter dominating the early-morning sky. At magnitude 4.0, the Orion Nebula is easily visible to the naked eye as a fuzzy patch in the east, but binoculars or a small telescope will reveal its true beauty.

Wednesday, September 4
Find the Pleiades in the early morning sky
The Pleiades shine with a distinctive blue hue, rising shortly after 10 p.m. local time. Another deep sky object which really makes you think how mind boggling huge the universe really is, you should be able to see several stars packed tightly together with the eye alone- the famous "Seven Sisters" always give you a sense of perspective. A good set of binoculars are the most popular choice of equipment to observe this gem!

Thursday, September 5
A new Moon occurs at 12:36 a.m. Irish Standard Time, as Earth's satellite crosses the sky with the Sun and is lost in our star's glare in the process.

Although Neptune reached opposition on August 26, the solar system's outermost planet is still easily visible through binoculars, provided that you know where to look. The gas giant appears due south shortly after midnight this week, and shines at a dim magnitude 7.8. To locate Neptune, find the 5th-magnitude star Sigma Aquarii, which lies near the center of the constellation Aquarius. At the moment the planet appears 2° west of this star.

Friday, September 6
Venus shines at an extremely bright magnitude -4.0 shortly after sunset this week. It stands around 10° above the horizon 30 minutes after sunset.. For observers with a clear view of the western horizon, point a telescope or a strong pair of binoculars at the planet to reveal a stunning world which appears 75% lit.

Even though Saturn looked best back in late April, the ringed planet can still be easily seen in the south-west for well over an hour after sunset. The gas-planet's spectacular rings are tilted 18° towards our line of sight, so telescopes will reveal this truly spectacular sight. If conditions are good enough, you will discover Saturn's largest moon Titan, visible through telescopes at magnitude 9.28.

Saturday, September 7

Find the Nova Delphini in the southern sky before midnight
There's  no sign of the Moon tonight, so take advantage of the dark skies to observe the constellations. Try and find Delphinus, the dolphin-shaped constellation can be used to spot the Nova Delphini. For stargazers in dark sky locations, it might still be visible to the naked eye. Look 5° above the diamond, and you should spot the dim eruption easily through a pair of binoculars- a telescopic view is even better! A nova is a powerful eruption from star, but is not as strong as a supernova, which is a catastrophic explosion that signals the death of a star.

The ever-present Plough/Big Dipper is visible all night long in the northern sky. Use the two stars at the front of the dipper; Merak and Dubhe to draw a line towards Polaris, the North star.

Sunday, September 8
This morning is the perfect time to look for Mars. The Red Planet is close to the Beehive Cluster(M44) in Cancer the Crab both today and tomorrow, and at magnitude 1.84 it shines 100 times brighter than the cluster's brightest stars. Since the pair are positioned so close together, it's best to use binoculars or a telescope with a wide field of view to see the pair. At 5 a.m. local time they lie 15° above the western horizon.

Look out for yet another conjunction in the west/southwest shortly after sunset, as a young 10% waxing crescent lies roughly 2° above bright Venus. The pair will be visible together for almost an hour after sunset and should be a great sight!

Stay tuned to Irish Space Blog for all the latest news in the world of space exploration & astronomy! This Week's Night Sky will be published every Sunday to let you know what to see in the sky for the week ahead. We hope you like it!

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