StarDate

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  • Old Clusters

    A pair of globular star clusters is in the southeast at nightfall. M15 is highest in the sky, to the upper right of the Great Square of Pegasus. M30 is far below it, in Capricornus. Through binoculars, each looks like a fuzzy star.

  • Messier 2

    Some of the oldest stars in the galaxy congregate in the globular cluster M2. It is in the southeast at nightfall and wheels high across the south later on. Through binoculars, it looks like a fuzzy patch of light in the northwestern corner of Aquarius.

  • The Milky Way

    The next few evenings offer a great chance to see the Milky Way, the hazy band of light that outlines the disk of our home galaxy. It arcs high across the sky at nightfall, and there’s no Moon around to spoil the show.

  • Moon and Mercury

    Mercury lurks quite low in the east about 45 minutes before sunrise. It looks like a fairly bright star, but you need a clear horizon to see it. It will stand to the lower left of the Moon tomorrow, and just a whisker above the Moon on Thursday.

  • Moon and Regulus

    The Moon cozies up to Regulus, the brightest star of Leo, the lion, in the wee hours of tomorrow morning. They are well up in the east at first light, with Regulus close to the lower left of the Moon.

  • Triangulum

    Tiny Triangulum, the triangle, wedges between the prominent constellations Andromeda and Aries. Its three brightest stars form an isosceles triangle, which looks like a long wedge. Triangulum is low in the east-northeast at nightfall.

  • Autumn Star

    The best sign in the night sky that fall has arrived is the appearance of the “autumn star.” It’s the only bright star that puts in its best showing during the nights of autumn: Fomalhaut, the leading light of Piscis Austrinus, the southern fish.

  • Last-Quarter Moon

    The Moon reaches last quarter today. Half of the side that faces Earth is bathed in sunlight, while the other half is in darkness. When the Moon is at last quarter it is leading Earth in our planet’s orbit around the Sun.

  • Autumn Skies

    The Sun changes hemispheres today. It crosses the equator from north to south, a moment known as the equinox. That ushers in autumn here in the northern hemisphere, and spring in the south.

  • Mu Cephei

    The reddest star in northern skies stands high overhead during the evening hours. Its official designation is Mu Cephei, but it is also known as the Garnet Star. It is a red supergiant, which means it is much larger and cooler than the Sun.

  • Moon and Aldebaran

    Aldebaran, the bright orange eye of Taurus, the bull, rises to the lower left of the Moon before midnight, and stands closer to the Moon at first light tomorrow.

  • Vela X-1

    Enif, the star at the nose of Pegasus, the flying horse, is in the east at nightfall, to the upper right of the Great Square of Pegasus. The star is about 670 light-years away, so the light we see from it tonight actually left the star in the 1340s.

  • Autumn Constellations

    As summer comes to an end, the constellations of autumn are moving into prime-time evening viewing hours. The best known are from Greek mythology: Pegasus, Andromeda, Perseus, Cassiopeia, and Cepheus, all of which stand high overhead in mid-evening.

  • The Colt

    Equuleus, the colt, graces the evening sky this month. The tiny constellation looks like a flat-topped pyramid. A couple of hours after sunset, it stands about halfway between the eastern horizon and the point directly overhead.

  • Harvest Moon

    The Moon is full today. As the full Moon closest to the September equinox, it’s known as the Harvest Moon. In times past, its light helped farmers harvest their crops.

  • Lyra

    Lyra, the harp, stands high overhead on September evenings. It forms a small, faint diamond. To find it, look for Lyra’s most prominent star, Vega, which is just off one point of the diamond. It shines pure white.

  • Moon in Aquarius

    The Moon is passing through a well-known sign of the zodiac right now: Aquarius. Most of the stars that form the water bearer’s classical outline stand to the left of the Moon.

  • Evening Planets

    Two planets glide down the southwestern sky this evening. Bright orange Mars is low in the south-southwest as night falls, with fainter Saturn to the right by about the width of your fist held at arm’s length.

  • Serpens

    Serpens, the serpent, has two halves, separated by the serpent-bearer, Ophiuchus. As night falls, the serpent stretches from due south to due west. It’s not much to look at, though, so you need fairly dark skies to see many of its stars.

  • Big Dish

    The small constellation Lacerta, the lizard, passes high overhead this evening, lodged between the prominent constellations Cygnus and Andromeda. The hazy band of the Milky Way runs through it.

  • Pegasus

    With autumn drawing close, some of the constellations associated with the season are climbing into prominence. Pegasus, the flying horse, spreads his wings across the eastern sky at nightfall, with Andromeda, the princess, to his lower left.

  • Moon and Mars

    Look for Mars below the Moon this evening. The little planet looks like a bright orange star. The planet Saturn and the star Antares are also close to their right and lower right.

  • Moon and Companions

    The planet Saturn stands below the Moon this evening, and looks like a bright star. The true star Antares, at the heart of the scorpion, is below Saturn, with the brighter orange planet Mars to their left.

  • Cetus

    The constellation Cetus, the whale or the sea monster, is just moving into the evening sky. It clears the eastern horizon before midnight and swims into the southwest by daybreak.

  • Sirius and Procyon

    The stars Sirius and Procyon are in the east and southeast at first light. Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky. Procyon is to its upper left. The name Procyon means “before the dog,” meaning it precedes Sirius, the Dog Star, into the sky.

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