The Moon, with its changing shape night after night, is always an eye-catching sight. And because it’s so easy to spot, it can also serve as a guide to many other interesting celestial objects. Let’s explore some of them with the help of our lunar neighbour.
Jupiter and the Pleiades
Our tour begins on the evening of September 3, when the waning gibbous Moon will sit to the upper right of Jupiter. Both celestial bodies shine above the eastern horizon as of 10.30 p.m. and remain visible throughout the night.
Two days later, the last quarter Moon will lie below the beautiful Pleiades star cluster in the constellation Taurus. You’ll be able to spot them in the north-northeast starting at 11 p.m. Although visible to the naked eye, the Pleiades cluster is best observed through binoculars or a small telescope.
Pollux and Venus
In the very early morning hours of September 10, the Moon will hang below the star Pollux, which, together with its slightly higher neighbour Castor, form the heads of the mythological twins in the constellation Gemini. You’ll find them in the east-northeast from 2 a.m. until dawn.
On the morning of September 11 and 12, the lunar crescent nestles close to dazzling Venus. You can’t miss this spectacular celestial duo, but you’ll need to rise early, around 5 a.m., to admire the pair above the eastern horizon.
Antares and Saturn
Our next celestial target will be visible on September 20, in the evening this time. At around 8 p.m., low in the southwest, the crescent Moon will appear to the right of the star Antares, in the constellation Scorpius. Note the reddish hue of Antares, whose name means anti-Mars: To the naked eye, it actually resembles and can easily be mistaken for the Red Planet when the two are near each other in the sky.
Lastly, on the evening of September 26, the waxing gibbous Moon sidles up to Saturn. At nightfall, the Moon appears just below and slightly to the right of the ringed planet; it then glides directly below Saturn over the next few hours. A small telescope will reveal the giant planet’s rings—always a breathtaking sight.
Mercury in the morning sky
Mercury makes a fine appearance in the morning sky during the second half of the month. On the morning of September 22, it can be found at its maximum altitude: At around 6 a.m., you’ll spot the tiny planet about 10 degrees above the eastern horizon. Your guide to finding it will be brilliant Venus, located at an altitude of about 30 degrees, three times higher and slightly to the right of Mercury. Focus your gaze between the two planets and you’ll see Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation Leo, shining about 20 degrees high in the sky. Mercury is the small dot of light just above the eastern horizon. This planet is often difficult to make out in the sky, so this will be a great opportunity to take on this interesting viewing challenge.
In closing, boreal autumn kicks off with the fall equinox on September 23 at 2:50 a.m. (Eastern Time). It’s a wonderful time of year to enjoy nature’s daytime colours.