Autumn approaches and astronomers look forwards in anticipation of what to observe, but you need not be an avid astronomer to share their delights. In the coming two months we have observations that will be of interest and may catch the eyes of many including:
The Harvest Moon (Saturday 10th September)
The nearest full Moon to the Autumn Equinox is known as the Harvest Moon welcomed by past generations to help give light for the gathering of crops.
Jupiter and Saturn
Jupiter and Saturn can be seen to be prominent for the months of September and October. Saturn will appear lower and to the right of Jupiter. Jupiter will be the brighter of the two planets with it being in opposition, that is in direct line between the Sun and the Earth. Thus Jupiter will be ideal for observing and even with binoculars you may observe four of its Moons Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto orbiting the giant planet over the weeks.
The Orionid Meteor Showers (peak on Friday 21st October)
10 to 20 meteors per hour may be seen from the early hours through to dawn. The radiant (the point in the sky where the meteors appear to emerge) can be found by looking towards the east and for the early risers you may see them around 06.00 hours high in the south east.
Partial Eclipse of the Sun (Tuesday 25th October)
The whole of the UK will see the Moon gradually partially cover the Sun up to a value of around 30%. Do not look directly at the partial eclipse it can damage the eyes, but there will be ample coverage by the media and many online outlets covering the event. The partial eclipse occurs between the hours of 10.00 am and midday.
Autumn Equinox: Friday 23rd September at 02.03 hours. This is when day and night are of approximate equal length.
Daylight Saving: Clocks go back one hour on Sunday 30th October.
Mercury: Unobservable throughout September but will be at its most prominent on the morning of 8th October between 06.00 and 06.30 looking east.
Venus: Very low in the morning sky during September and unobservable during October as it approaches superior conjunction, that is Venus is on the opposite side of the Sun.
Mars: During September look towards the east around midnight. By October Mars becomes more prominent and is excellent for observation.
By John Harris