What to see in the sky this month - Harvest Moon and September Equinox

Meteor Shower. Falling stars. Comets. Perseid Meteor Shower in 2016. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Things you can see in the sky in September 2021. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

September's night sky will be packed with things to see, including the first autumn full moon, an equinox, and meteor showers. 

Here are some things in the sky you should look out for this month. 

The Moon

Phases for September are as follows:

  • New moon - September 7
  • First quarter - September 13
  • Harvest Moon - September 20
    • This full moon is linked with the harvest and the autumnal equinox (September 22), giving off bright moonlight to aid in harvesting crops.
  • Third quarter - September 29

The Moon will have close encounters with Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter this month. 

On September 9, Venus will appear nearby and will be hard to miss. On September 16, Saturn will be seen near the Moon, which will be illuminated at 87pc. On September 17, Jupiter will pass by the Moon in Capricornus, making visibility poor due to light pollution. 

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The Planets and Stars

Zodiacal light will begin to be visible. Just before dawn, the eastern horizon will be lightened by 'false dawn', caused by reflection off the dust in our solar system.

Mercury will be visible just after sunset on the horizon, being an evening object during this month. Its position will deteriorate over the month so early September (around September 3) is the best time to see it near Virgo in the west. 

Venus will be visible in the west shortly after sunset in early September. The planet will be near Spica, the brightest star in the Virgo the Maiden constellation. The best visibility of them together will be on September 4, 5, and 6.

Earth will have its September Equinox on September 22, where there will be equal lengths of day and night.

Mars will be out of view for the entirety of September, being too close to the sun to be seen.

Jupiter is also an evening planet and can be seen to the south. It is travelling west through Capricornus. Its best visibility will be on September 1.

Saturn can also be seen to the south, near Capricornus. The best time to see Saturn will be September 1, though it will be visible throughout the month.

Uranus will have best visibility on September 30, unlike the other planets.

Neptune's blue hue will be noticeable to the south, located in Aquarius and well-lit by the sun. The best visibility will be on September 14.

Asteroid 2 Pallas will pass near Neptune between September 11 and 14, it will be well lit by the sun and in opposition.

Meteor Showers

Aurigid meteor shower

Active between August 28 and September 5, this low-rate shower may be visible. There may be up to six meteors an hour. September 1 gives a good chance of seeing them, with the moon only 26pc illuminated allowing for minimal interference.

ε-Perseid meteor shower

Peaking on September 9, this shower could have around five meteors an hour. If visible, they will be seen in the southwest, though won't be as spectacular as the Perseids shower in August.

Orionids meteor shower

There may be some minimal visibility of this shower at the very end of September, with the shower supposed to begin around October 1.

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