By Duncan Lunan
After more than 40 years of planning, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe was launched in August 2018. It will pass Venus on 2nd October and make its first approach to the Sun at 24 million kilometres on November 5th. The autumn equinox this year is on September 23rd. If weather permits I shall be at the new site for the Sighthill stone circle, which I designed for Glasgow in 1979, to check my sunrise and sunset calculations for the new location. After a successful public campaign to save the stones, re-erection is planned before the end of the year.
The Moon will be New on September 9th, and Full on September 25th.On the night of 2nd-3rd September the Moon will rise within the Hyades Open Cluster in Taurus, passing close to the bright star Aldebaran which lies in the line of sight. After travelling right round the sky, the Moon will be in the Hyades again on the night of 29th/30th September.
The planet Mercury is in the morning sky in Leo before sunrise early in September, passing Regulus, the brightest star in Leo, on the 6th and growing brighter until it’s lost in daylight by the 10th. Mercury is at superior conjunction, on the far side of the Sun, on September 21st.
Venus is still visible in the evening sky, in the west for an hour after sunset, very close to Spica in Virgo on the 1st and passed by the Moon on September 12th. Venus is very low and disappears by the end of the month.
Mars in Capricornus sets around 1.30 a.m., still bright but growing fainter. The planet-wide dust storm which formed at the closest approach to the Sun is now subsiding, but nothing more has been heard from the solar-powered Opportunity rover since it was forced to shut down in June. The Moon is near Mars on the 20th.
Japan’s Hyabusa 2 probe is within 1 kilometre of the asteroid Ryugu and will attempt to obtain samples for return to Earth, as will NASA’s OSIRIS-REX, which reached asteroid Bennu in August.
Jupiter in Libra now sets around 9 p.m., near the Moon on the 14th, and disappears behind the Sun during the month.On its extended polar mission,NASA’s Juno probe photographed the Little Red Spot in detail on July 15th, and the mission will now continue for a further three years.
Saturn in Sagittarius reaches its stationary point on September 6th and appears to reverse direction in the sky, as the Earth pulls away from it. Saturn is passed by the Moon on the 17th, and sets around 11.30 p.m..
Uranus in Aries rises about 8.30 p.m., and appears near the Moon on the 27th.
Neptune in Aquarius is in the sky all night, at opposition (nearest to us and due south at midnight GMT/UT) on the 7th, near the Moon on the 23rd.The Very Large Telescope at the European Southern Observatory recently obtained the sharpest images of Neptune since the Voyager 2 flyby of 1989, revealing a triple belt of storm clouds south of the equator.
The next meeting of the Astronomers of the Future Club will be on Thursday September 27thfrom 7.15 to 9 p.m. at the RSAS Barassie Works Club, 4 Shore Road, Troon, KA10 6AG. The speaker will be Eamonn Ansbro from southern Ireland, talking about the possibility of Quantum Communication at speeds faster than light.
“Starfield, science fiction by Scottish writers”, edited by Duncan Lunan, is now available from the publishers at https://www.shorelineofinfinity.com/product/starfield. Duncan’s recent books “Children from the Sky”, “The Stones and the Stars”, “Incoming Asteroid!” and “The Elements of Time” are available from the publishers, on Amazon or through booksellers; details are on Duncan’s website, www.duncanlunan.com.