Antares greets Mars and a crescent Moon.
Mars continues to motor eastward through Scorpius, leaving behind Delta Scorpii and catching up to Antares. Saturn is slowly losing its battle with evening twilight, however. The ringed planet is less than 10 degrees above the horizon an hour after sunset, and sets just after 9 p.m., local daylight time.
For early risers, the Jupiter observing season is under way. The big planet rises at 3 a.m. and hovers more than 30 degrees above the horizon by the time the sky starts to brighten. Meanwhile, Venus‘s long morning apparition is gradually winding down. The planet rises just ½ hour ahead of the Sun, but at magnitude -3.9, you can still pick it up even in bright twilight.
The autumn equinox occurs this evening at 10:29 p.m., EDT (7:29 p.m., PDT), when the Sun crosses the celestial equator. Time to bid farewell to summer and welcome the longer, but cooler nights of autumn.
The Moon is new at 2:14 a.m., EDT this morning. Good dark skies await!
This evening the crescent Moon will have a close encounter with Saturn. The two will be at their closest for observers on the West Coast. From Vancouver, the lunar disc will be positioned just a little more than 1 degree from the ringed planet as twilight fades. They will be about three times farther apart for viewers in Eastern Canada. From any location though, the duo should present a fine show in binoculars.
This evening Mars and the crescent Moon will line up above Antares, the brightest star in Scorpius. The planet is just a little brighter than the star and both have an orange hue, which is enhanced by their low altitude. You can fit Mars and Antares into the same binocular field, but the Moon is just a bit too far away to be included. None the less, the trio will be a fine naked-eye sight.
If you observe under dark skies, the September 26 – 28 weekend is a good time to seek out the zodiacal light since the Moon will be absent from the morning sky. The zodiacal light’s glow is caused by sunlight scattered by dust particles residing in the inner solar system. Look for an amorphous cone-shaped luminance in the east in the predawn hours. Usually, the zodiacal light is about as bright as the winter Milky Way, which is why you’ll need dark, clear skies to make it out.
To try your hand at photographing the zodiacal light, use a wide-angle lens (the widest you have), aim towards the east, and experiment until you find a combination of aperture, ISO, and exposure time that yields the results you’re after. For the most natural colours, set your camera’s white-balance for “daylight.” And if you manage to get some good photos, please send us a copy.
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