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What's in the Sky - September 2015
What's in the Sky - September 2015

September nights hold lots of wonderful treats for amateur astronomers to see with binoculars and telescopes. See some of our top September stargazing suggestions below:

  • The Northern Milky Way - Early in the month, around 9 PM, the "Summer Triangle" of three bright stars (Vega, Deneb and Altair) is nearly overhead. In the northernmost portion of the Summer Triangle, you'll see the brightest portion of the northern Milky Way. Point a telescope there and you'll discover that the fuzzy outlines of the Milky Way will resolve into fields of glittering stars.
  • Planetary Nebulas in the Summer Triangle - Get a star chart and see how many of these you can find in September: the famous Ring Nebula (M57) in the constellation Lyra; the Dumbbell Nebula (M27) in Vulpecula; and the "Blinking Planetary," NGC 6826 in Cygnus. Not far outside the western boundary of the Summer Triangle is a small, but intensely colorful planetary nebula, NGC 6572. All these can be seen in a 6" or larger telescope. An Oxygen-III filter will help.
  • Neighbor Galaxy - In early September, lurking low in the northeast sky is another galaxy, separate from our Milky Way - the Great Andromeda Galaxy (M31). From a very dark, moonless sky, M31 is visible with the unaided eye as a slightly fuzzy spot. A pair of 7x50, 9x63 or larger binoculars will give you a much better view and telescopes will reveal some of the subtle dust lanes in the neighboring galaxy.
  • More Extra-Galactic Treats - If you haven't tracked down "The Whirlpool Galaxy," M51, just off the handle of the easily recognizable Big Dipper asterism, do it now while you still can! It will be too low for most to get a good view after September and you'll need to wait until late winter or next spring to catch a good view of this truly picturesque galaxy.
  • A Brilliant Open Star Cluster - Off the western end of the constellation Cassiopeia is the beautiful Open Star Cluster M52. You can find it with 50mm or larger binoculars from a dark sky site, but the view is definitely better in a telescope. With a larger scope, say 8" or larger, and with the aid of an Orion UltraBlock or Oxygen-III eyepiece filter, you may even be able to catch views of faint emission nebulas near M52
  • Don't Miss the Double Cluster - If you liked sparkling M52, you'll love the popular favorite "Double Cluster in Perseus." Lying between constellations Cassiopeia and Perseus is a bright, fuzzy spot in the Milky Way, and a binocular or telescope will reveal two, bright open star clusters close to one another. In early September the "Double Cluster" appears low in northeastern skies around 9 PM, but it becomes a real showpiece later in the evening as it climbs higher in the sky.
  • Supermoon Eclipse - Stargazers are in for a rare treat after sunset on September 27th, when a Total Lunar Eclipse will occur on the same night as a "supermoon" Full Moon. A "supermoon" occurs when the Moon makes its closest yearly approach to Earth. This year, the Moon's closest approach happens to coincide with a Total Lunar Eclipse that will be visible from most of North and South America, the Pacific, and Eastern Europe. What's more, this particular eclipse is also called a Blood Moon since it is the fourth and final eclipse in a "lunar tetrad"; a series of four total lunar eclipses in a row that began back in April of 2014. You won't want to miss this spectacular sight as the Full Moon becomes a reddish-orange color as it passes through Earth's shadow. The entire eclipse will last over 3 hours, from approximately 6:07pm PDT to 9:27pm PDT, but the Moon will appear darkest during totality, which occurs from about 7:11pm PDT to 8:23pm PDT. This will be a great photo opportunity for all our fellow "luna"tics!
  • The Globular Star Clusters of September - Off the western side of the constellation Pegasus, three globular star clusters almost line up in a row from north to south. These sparkling clusters are, starting with the most northern globular, M15 in Pegasus; M2 in Aquarius and M30 in Capricorn. From a dark sky site you can easily find all of them in binoculars and telescopes.
  • The Challenging Veil - A challenge object for September is the Veil Nebula, a supernova remnant, located in the constellation Cygnus which is nearly overhead as soon as it gets dark. With the help of a star chart, aim your telescope at the naked eye star 52 Cygni. One branch of the Veil crosses over this star and to the east are brighter segments of this roughly circular nebula. While the Veil Nebula can be seen in big binoculars by expert observers under very dark skies, you will likely need at least a 5" telescope and an Orion Oxygen-III eyepiece filter if you are anywhere near city lights.

All objects described above can easily be seen with the suggested equipment from a dark sky site, a viewing location some distance away from city lights where light pollution and when bright moonlight does not overpower the stars.

 

Lunar Eclipse by Doug Hubbell

Lunar Eclipse by Doug Hubbell

All objects described above can easily be seen with the suggested equipment from a dark sky site, a viewing location some distance away from city lights where light pollution and when bright moonlight does not overpower the stars.

Details
Date Taken: 02/25/2015
Author: Orion Staff
Category: Seasonal

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