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Skywatch: Jupiter’s stars on cool September nights


The refreshing nights of September have the outstanding Jupiter as the planet reachesopposition” on September 26, according to the US Naval Observatory.

Don’t worry. There are no enemy worlds involved: “Opposition” means that the Earth is caught between the sun and a planetary object. Consider this concept: we can see a “whole” Jupiter, much like a Moon.

Earlier this week, Jupiter rises around 9:00 pm in the eastern sky. For Labor Day weekend, the large gaseous planet ascends the evening skies beginning at 8:30 p.m. It is an incredibly bright magnitude -2.9, seen between the constellations Pisces (the fish) and Cetus (the whale).

Throughout the month, Jupiter rises earlier. For the opposition date, September 26, the planet rises at 7 pm, stays up all night, and then sets at sunrise.

Jupiter reaches opposition annually. Last month, it was of Saturn turn (August 14), and we will see a brilliant Mars in his opposition Dec. 8th.

The last time Jupiter was this big and bright, since LandThe prospect of — was on September 21, 2010 and October 21, 2010. 29, 2011, according to the observatory. Our fifth favorite planet from the sun is this close again on August 25, 2033, October 2, 2033. On November 2, 2034 and November 8, 2035, when all three oppositions reach a magnitude of – 2.9, said astronomer Geoff Chester of the Naval Observatory.

The crescent moon trots past Saturn (magnitude zero, bright) in the constellation Capricorn from September 7 to 8, in the southeastern skies around 9 p.m.

The moon reaches full September 10 and crosses past the dazzling Jupiter the next night, then zooms into the blur pleiades groupings in the Taurus constellation 14-15 September.

Later in the evening now, the last quarter moon slips past the brightness of Mars (also in Taurus, magnitude -0.4, bright enough to see) on September 16 and 17. While our neighboring Red Planet rises around 11 pm in this early part of September, find it in the east-northeast after midnight.

The usually bright Venus it is quite close to the sun, hugging the horizon and rising just before sunrise. It becomes difficult to see and hangs out near the sun for a few months before returning in December.

Get your sweaters out of storage and get your yard rakes ready: The autumn equinox The official astronomical start of the fall occurs on September 22 at 9:04 pm Eastern Time, but on September 23 at 1 am Universal Time, according to the observatory.

* September 3 — Gaze up at the sky at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at the National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Virginia. The telescopes are provided by volunteers from the Northern Virginia Astronomy Club (NOVAC). Please meet in the bus parking lot, but park in the main visitor parking lot. 8-10 pm GPS: 14390 Air and Space Museum Parkway, Chantilly, Va., 20151. NOVAC: Museum information:

* September 3 — Take in the stars and some evening planets at “Exploring the Sky,” hosted by National Capital Astronomers at Rock Creek Park near the Nature Center. 8 pm Optional masks. The program will be canceled if it rains or is very cloudy.

* September 9 – “A First Interstellar Probe: The Next Step Towards the Stars,” a lecture by physicist Ralph L. McNutt Jr. of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. He will describe the proposed interstellar probe, a possible NASA mission. Organized by PSW Science. 8 pm, Powell Auditorium at the Cosmos Club, 2121 Massachusetts Ave. NORTHWEST.

* September 13th – “Opening the Infrared Treasure Chest with the James Webb Space Telescope,” a lecture by Nobel Prize-winning physicist John C. Mather. He will talk about how NASA and its partners built the amazing telescope and share early discoveries. 8 pm Online and at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Chantilly. Detail:

* 24th September – Appreciate the starry skies with “Astronomy for Everyone” at Sky Meadows State Park in Fauquier County. Ambassadors from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory provide an astronomy program, while members of NOVAC will offer telescopic views. 7-10 pm GPS: 11012 Edmonds Lane, Delaplane, Va., 20144. Bring lawn chairs and blankets. NOVAC: sky meadows: Parking fee: $10.

Blaine Friedlander can be contacted at


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