September marks the end of summer and the beginning of fall, with the Equinox on September 22. It’s a month most astrophotographers wait for impatiently, particularly those at high altitudes, as the hours of darks finally start to increase while the night temperatures are still acceptable for stargazing. Let’s see what the main events of the month are.
September 1 – Aurigid meteor shower. The Aurigid meteor shower originates from the debris of the comet Kiess and will have its peak this year on the night between August 31 and September 1. It will be visible all night, with the radiant point in the constellation Auriga.
September 7 – New Moon. The New Moon is the first lunar phase, when the far side of our natural satellite is fully lit leaving the side visible from Earth in the dark. Mark this date on your calendar for this is the best time to observe or photograph faint objects such as galaxies nebulas or star clusters as there is no moonlight brightening the sky!
September 14 – Neptune at Opposition. Neptune is the farthest planet from the Sun and, at an average distance of 4.5 billion km, the only one not visible to the naked eye. On this night however, the Ice Giant will be fully illumined by the Sun, appearing brighter than any other night, which is why you can’t miss this opportunity to image this beautiful blue world.
September 17 – Conjunction of the Moon and Saturn. On this evening, Saturn and the Moon, which will be 10-days old, will put on a nice show, visible to the naked eye! The two celestial objects in fact, will make a close approach in the night sky and will dance together all night long, before setting in south-western horizon at around 1:30am.
September 18 – Conjunction of the Moon and Jupiter. New day, new conjunction! This time is Jupiter that gets close to the Moon, in a spectacular close approach. With the gas giant being brighter in the sky compared to Saturn, this event will be even more obvious to the naked eye. With a pair of binoculars, you may even be able to see some of Jupiter’s moons!
September 20 – Full Moon. A full Moon is always a breath-taking view, especially when viewed through a telescope or a pair of binoculars. This month’s full Moon is known as the Harvest Moon as it is the closest to the September equinox. Early Native American tribes referred to September’s full moon as Corn Moon, as the corn is usually harvested around this time of the year.
September 22 – Autumnal Equinox. The autumnal equinox marks the official end of summer and the beginning of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. On this day, the hours of light and darks are nearly equal throughout the world.
DSOs in September. September is typically a great month for astrophotography: whether you are a planetary imager or a DSO astrophotographer, there is always something for you up in the sky. From galaxies such as the Firework Galaxy (NGC 6946), the Triangulum Galaxy (M33) and the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) to star clusters like the Pleiades (M45), M2, M15 or M30. Some of the most beautiful nebulas to photograph this month include the Crescent Nebula (NGC 6888), the Veil Nebula (NGC 6960) and North America Nebula (NGC 7000).