All information presented here is taken from my 74 page book

Nightscenes 2018 which is available to order from our web shop and all good book stores! Note we can no longer supply printed copies as we’ve run out but a pdf version is now available from our web shop. A kindle version is also available from Amazon UK

Click on the monthly image to get a larger high resolution view of the night sky set for 53° N (Horncastle, England) but is usable for the UK and Eire.  All charts are set for the 1st of the month at 22:00 GMT (10pm) and can be used on the other dates and times shown in each corner of the chart.

September 2018

Solar System quick summary

For most charts see the buttons at the top for various planets etc.. Charts & images in the text can be clicked to give a larger view.

Venus sets shortly after the Sun so no longer viewable. Jupiter, Saturn and Mars are the dominant evening planets along with minor planet Vesta. Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner should be a binocular object best seen late in the night. Neptune is at opposition on the 7th and now becomes viewable all night whilst Uranus is also improving for viewing late in the evenings. In the morning sky Mercury is ideally placed for twilight viewing in the first couple of weeks. The Moon occults Gamma () Capricornus (21st), Delta () Capricornus (22nd, northern areas)  and Xi2 (2) Cetus (27th). The September Epsilon Perseids may have an outburst on the evening of the 9th under no Moon conditions so worth trying for.

Main events

Jupiter lies low in the SW as twilight comes to an end with Saturn and Mars also easily viewable along with minor planet Vesta.

Saturn remains viewable in the South/SW and if there is one planet you really should take a look at through a telescope then the Ringed Planet Saturn is the one as there is nothing else in our solar system quite like it when you see the rings for yourself. The 06-Jun-Sat-details.jpgchart here shows the main features to look out for. Even in a spotting scope or large binocular you can just make out that Saturn is special in that it appears elongated.

To add to the fun, a large binocular or a small telescope will also show Saturn’s largest moon, 06-Jun-titan.jpgTitan, orbiting around the planet taking 16 days to complete one orbit. Time of when it is furthest from Saturn are shown above so do try to track it down.

09-Sept-Mn-Merc.jpgMercury lies in the morning twilight. On our chart on the left, it became viewable from August 17th low down in the ENE sky and the innermost world is shown every morning at ~ 40 minutes before sunrise.  It was at Greatest Western Elongation on Aug 26th and at the start of September it begins to fall back towards the direction of the Sun. Mercury is always brighter at the end of its morning apparitions and so it continues to brighten, making it easier to locate even though it is getting lower in the morning twilight sky. On Sept 6th Mercury will be mag -1.1 and the star Regulus (mag 1.4) will lie to its lower right. Indeed Regulus is pulling out of the solar glare and on our chart is shown every two days moving to the upper right. Two mornings later and a slim crescent Moon lies above right of Regulus and Mercury for another photo opportunity. Mercury descends rapidly and I expect it will be lost around Sept 12th when the planet will be mag -1.4 and very09-Sept-Neptune.jpg low in the bright twilight.

Although the bright naked eye planets Jupiter, Saturn and Mars are dominating the evening skies, now Neptune comes to opposition on Sept 7th. It shines at mag 7.8 so a binocular is needed or a small telescope. It is retrograding and lies between the stars 82 and 83 Aqr (mags 6.2 and 5.4) for easy identification on Sept 26th. The chart shows Neptune from Sept 1st through to Nov 1st around 10pm and in small instruments it shows a subtle bluish tint betraying its identity.

09-Sept-mnn-cap-occ.jpgThis month there are several occultations  including Gamma ()  Capricornus on the 21st, Delta () Capricornus on 22nd, (northern areas) and Xi2 (2) Cetus on the 27th.  Gamma Cap is occulted for all areas of the UK/Ireland and so for ‘D’ look out from 9pm as the Moon creeps towards the star then occults it on the dark limb. R is on the bright limb so look out from 10pm for the reappearance although that is always the harder one to catch when it occurs on the bright limb.

A few hours later into the morning of the 22nd and the Moon now lies close to Delta Cap. For the author’s location (Horncastle) then it misses the star so for some regions there is no occultation. The chart on occultation page (menu at top) shows where it can be seen and also includes the times and the occultation details for Xi2 (2) Cetus on the 27th.

capella-c21p-400mm-C50D-iso800-stk5-030918-sml.jpgAs it is a visitor, let’s look out for Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner which moves through Auriga and into Gemini during the month. On the 3rd it lay near to Capella, a bright naked eye star of mag 0.2 whilst the comet should be about mag 7.2. That’s  quite a differenc09-Sept-C-GZ-1.jpge but this proximity will made it easier to find it in a binocular.

Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner next to Capella, image by the author.

The comet passes to one side of the clusters M38 and M36 (right) and reaches perihelion (closest to the Sun) on the 10th 09-Sept-C-GZ-2.jpgwhilst next night it is quite close to M37 for a great photo opportunity. It races towards the feet of Germini and on the early morning of the 16th when it lies close to M35 and also the smaller cluster NGC 2158. It moves through Gemini into Monoceros where the 2nd chart at left shows it as it passes NGC 2264 the Christmas Tree cluster on the 25th and then between it and the Rosette cluster and nebula the next morning before passing the latter on the 27th. It ends the month near the mag 4.5 star 18 Monoceros. More details can be found using the minor worlds button at top.

Normally Nightscenes lists meteor showers with a ZHR of 10 or more but data kindly provided by Jürgen Rendtel of the International Meteor Organisation (IMO) suggests there is a slim chance of an outburst of the September Epsilon Perseids on peak night of September 9th. This coincides with ideal conditions as it is also New Moon so although normal peak rate would be 5 then it may be worth keeping an eye out for them in the early evening around  7-9pm. The radiant (shown on the monthly chart above) on the 9th lies near to Algol, Beta ()  Perseus so not actually Epsilon!

Also look out for the following:

Sept     2nd  Moon forms wide triangle with M45 and Aldebaran/Hyades (morning)

Sept     3rd  Last Quarter Moon lies very close to Aldebaran (morning)

Sept     7th  Slim crescent Moon south of Delta Cnc & below M44, Beehive cluster

Sept   12th  Crescent Moon lies above Venus in bright evening twilight

Sept   13th  Crescent Moon to right of Jupiter/ Jupiter also lies south of Nu Libra

Sept   14th  Crescent Moon to left of Jupiter (evening twilight)

Sept   15th  Thick crescent Moon lies above Antares (evening twilight)

Sept   17th  First Quarter Moon lies close to Saturn and Mu Sgr (evening)

Sept   18th  Moon lies close to Teaspoon asterism (evening)

Sept   19th  Moon lies to upper right of Mars whilst Jupiter again lies on a line between Beta and Sigma Libra (both evening events)

Sept   20th  Moon lies to upper left of Mars (evening)

Sept   23rd  Moon very close to Psi Aqr (evening)

Sept   26th  Minor Planet Vesta passes south of Saturn tonight & tomorrow (evening)

Sept   27th  Moon occults Xi2 Ceti (evening)

Sept   29th  Moon lies close to Hyades, especially Hyadum 1 (evening)

  Clear skies and happy sky watching.


The UK & Ireland Night Sky for 2018


The Autumnal Equinox occurs on September 23rd  at 01:54 GMT (02:54 BST). Autumn officially begins in the N. Hemisphere whilst Spring begins in the S. Hemisphere.

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