All information presented here is taken from my 74 page book Nightscenes 2020 which is available to order from our web shop and all good book stores!
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.
Solar System quick summary
Some charts & images in the text can also be clicked to give a larger view.
Mercury has a very poor evening apparition and stays too low and lost in the bright evening twilight to easily observe. Jupiter and Saturn are the main highlights for the evening sky with both in Sagittarius and Jupiter lying under the ‘Teaspoon’ asterism. Ceres is viewable and almost the same brightness as Neptune that lies a little higher up in Aquarius and the latter comes to opposition on the 11th. Next up is Mars and Uranus, both rising mid month at 9pm so becoming better placed to view. Venus is a morning planet and with the moon on the 14th lies either side of M44 then on the 23rd Venuspasses Vesta.
Whilst the giant planets of Jupiter and Saturn have already reached their opposition dates back in July, now it is the turn of one of the ‘Ice’ giants, Neptune. It has been moving slowly backwards (retrograde) since June 23rd and lies in a fairly barren part of Aquarius shown in close up above and a wide field chart for context below which also shows Ceres with the chart set for Sept 11th at 11pm. The close up chart above shows Neptune steadily moving towards a pass between the stars 96 Aqr (mag 5.6) and HD 220035 (mag 6.2) at the end of the month (actually Oct 3rd) with Neptune on opposition date shining at mag 7.8 so viewable in binoculars. See if you can spot a hint of blue-
Dwarf planet Ceres does not have a good year as it lies quite low in the sky spending its time in lower Aquarius but it reached opposition last month and so technically is still at its best. It shines at around mag 7.7 so can be spotted in binoculars using the chart below.
Mars is moving slowly in Pisces and comes to a halt on the 9th when it reaches its stationary point. The Moon joins it and Uranus nearby on the 5th & 6th as we can see here set looking east at 11pm. If you view Mars and the Moon on the late evening of the 5th then follow them through the night into the 6th the moon creeps quite close to Mars lying right under the red planet by the time they set as dawn breaks. Mars begins to retrograde and its path for the rest of September is also shown. It lies close to Nu Psc on the 27th and at this stage it is not moving much but it is heading for its opposition next month.
Venus now catches our attention. It is still high in the morning sky before the onset of twilight and quickly moves from Gemini into Cancer. Watch as it moves south of the Beehive cluster (M44) on the 14th with the chart at upper left set for 4am. It is joined that morning with a crescent moon lying the other side of the cluster so in binoculars will make a fine sight. The moon on both above charts is shown actual scale for realism. The crescent moon itself lies close to Gamma Cnc whilst Venus lies near to Delta Cnc and the enlargement shows the view nicely. Venus then races away and catches up with the much fainter Vesta on the 23rd before leaving it behind.
Meanwhile, back to the bright evening planets of Jupiter and Saturn. Jupiter spends the month moving slowly under the ‘Teaspoon’ asterism but comes to a halt on the 13th when it reaches its stationary point. Saturn has also been moving slowly in the same direction and it too comes to a stationary point on the 29th so for almost two weeks the two planets are creeping towards each other. In the meantime the Moon joins them lying to the right of Jupiter on the 24th then forming a nice triangle with it and Saturn the next evening as shown here set for 8pm looking south.
Over the last couple of years we have been watching Jupiter steadily slide down the ecliptic and gradually catching up with its distant neighbour, Saturn. They haven’t quite met yet, and reached opposition during July, indicating how close they are getting.
So, Jupiter reached opposition first, on July 14th which technically means it is viewable now in the evening skies. It shines at mag -
Being bigger and closer, Jupiter shows more detail in a telescope but if you use binoculars you may also be able to spot Jupiter's Galilean moons, the four were discovered by Galileo in 1610 AD. Small telescopes will show them better as in the view above taken by the author.
A telescope will also begin to show detail on the planet and the main features are shown at left. The GRS appears to be shrinking slowly so if you see it then give yourself a pat on the back. The two main equatorial belts are usually the most prominent but with continued study other subtle details may be glimpsed if conditions are right.
Meanwhile Saturn lies nearby in Sagittarius reached opposition on July 20th just six days after Jupiter. Saturn is fainter at mag 0.1 but that still makes it quite bright and noticeable, although Jupiter to its right is a bit of a giveaway! When a planet is at opposition it rises as the Sun sets and sets as the Sun rises so by months end both planets could now be said to be viewable in the (late) evenings.
Saturn’s main fame is the ring system which makes it look almost as big as Jupiter, yet the actual disk is smaller due to it being almost twice as far from us as the ‘King’ of the planets. On the planets disk look out for a North Polar ‘Hood’ and for a subtle dusky belt crossing the disk. The rings give Saturn its unique visual appearance in a telescope so look to see if you can spot the gap in the rings. This is the Cassini Division that separates the outer ‘A’ ring from the brighter and larger ‘B’ ring. It is also possible to note the shadow of the planet on the rings if you are careful with your studies.
Finally, in small telescopes and large binoculars you may spot Saturn’s largest moon, Titan so check out the details of where it will be in the chart below.
Also look out for the following:
2nd Full Moon lies below Neptune (evening)
8th Moon lies below M45 star cluster (evening)
9th Moon rises with Aldebaran to its lower right (late evening)
10th Last Quarter Moon lies in Taurus, to left of Hyades and Aldebaran (morning)
11th Moon lies near to Zeta Taurii (early morning)
12th Moon lies near Epsilon Geminorum (morning)
13th Crescent Moon forms curved line with Pollux and Castor (morning)
15th Crescent Moon lies to right of Sickle asterism and Regulus (morning)
16th Slim Crescent Moon lies to left of Regulus (morning twilight)
20th Crescent Moon lies above Alpha Librae (evening twilight)
21st Crescent Moon lies to right of Graffias and Antares (evening twilight)
22nd Moon lies above Antares (evening twilight)
Clear skies, happy sky watching and stay safe!
Webmaster © Paul L Money 2020
The UK & Ireland Night Sky for 2020
The Autumnal Equinox occurs on September 22nd at 14:31 BST (13:31 GMT).
Autumn officially begins in the N. Hemisphere whilst Spring begins in the S. Hemisphere.
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