Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of September 2022
Commonly known as the Lagoon Nebula, M8 (NGC 6523) was discovered in 1654 by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Battista Hodierna, who, like Charles Messier, sought to catalog nebulous objects in the night sky so they would not be mistaken for comets. This star-forming cloud of interstellar gas is located in the constellation Sagittarius and its apparent magnitude of 6 makes it faintly visible to the naked eye in dark skies. Located 5200 lightyears from Earth, M8 is home to its own star cluster: NGC 6530. The massive stars embedded within the nebula give off enormous amounts of ultraviolet radiation, ionizing the gas and causing it to shine. [Video and Content Credits: NASA, the Office of Public Outreach – Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), JPL – Caltech, Preston Dyches, Christopher Harris, and Lisa Poje] [Image Credit: Jim Lafferty, Astromart Contributor, https://astromart.com/gallery/photo/34076 )
Kiss the Sky Tonight -- Month of September 2022
Welcome to the night sky report for September 2022 -- Your guide to the constellations, deep sky objects, planets, and celestial events that are observable during the month. In September, Pegasus becomes increasingly prominent in the southeastern sky, allowing stargazers to locate globular clusters M2 (NGC 7089), M30 (NGC 7099), as well as a nearby double star, Alpha Capricorni, which is an optical double (but not a binary pair). Also, Mars is on the move during the month and it is prime viewing time for Jupiter. The night sky is truly a celestial showcase, so get outside and explore its wonders from your own backyard.
As September brings the transition from summer to fall, so the sky transitions to the stars of autumn. Increasingly prominent in the southeastern sky is Pegasus, the winged horse. The Great Square of stars that outlines the body is a useful guide to the fall patterns around it.
Near the Great Square lies the sprawling pattern of Aquarius, the water-bearer. Located within the western part of the constellation is M2, one of the oldest and largest globular star clusters associated with the Milky Way galaxy. It appears as a circular, grainy glow in backyard telescopes.
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has imaged the cluster, a compact globe of some 150,000 stars that are more than 37,000 light-years away. At approximately 13 billion years old, this cluster formed early in the history of the universe, and offers astronomers an opportunity to see how stars of different masses live and die. Results from ESA’s Gaia satellite suggest that this cluster, along with several others, may have once belonged to a dwarf galaxy that merged with the Milky Way.
West of Aquarius is the constellation of Capricornus, the sea goat, a figure dating back to the Sumerians and Babylonians. The star at the western end of Capricornus is Alpha Capricorni. Alpha Capricorni is an optical double but not a binary pair. The brighter star, Algedi, is about 100 light-years away. The fainter star lies along the same line of sight but is roughly eight times farther away.
The pattern hosts another globular star cluster, M30. It appears as a hazy glow in small telescopes. Stars are packed so closely in globular clusters that they can interact with each other. Binary stars can exchange partners in their tight gravitational square dance. More massive objects like black holes and neutron stars move toward the center. M30 likely started life with another galaxy that merged with our own. The globular cluster is orbiting the Milky Way in the opposite direction of most stars.
Look west to find the constellation Sagittarius, the centaur archer in the sky. Past the centaur’s arm, is a heavily obscured globular cluster, Terzan 5. Terzan 5, which was discovered in 1968 by French astronomer Agop Terzan, sits near the dark dust lanes of the Milky Way. Bright blue young stars are visible in the foreground of the ancient cluster. The core of Terzan 5 shines brightly with the X-ray light from white dwarfs and neutron stars.
Take advantage of mild, late summer nights to enjoy the constellations and ancient globular star clusters of the September sky.
You'll find Mars hanging out high in the south on September mornings before sunrise. Early in the month, it's near orange-colored Aldebaran, the eye of Taurus the bull. And over the course of the month, Mars works its way eastward from Aldebaran toward reddish Betelgeuse, creating a sort of "red triangle" in the morning sky. Then the Red Planet will appear to hit the brakes and halt its eastward motion, to hang out in that triangle for the next month or so.
On the morning of the 11th, before sunrise, you'll find the Moon just a couple of finger-widths from Jupiter in the sky, making for a great viewing opportunity to observe them together through binoculars. Jupiter's at opposition this month, making it visible all night under clear skies. And it's around this time when the planet's at its biggest and brightest for telescope viewing. But a pair of binoculars is enough to reveal the giant planet's four large moons as little starlike points of light next to Jupiter.
And this month, NASA's Jupiter-orbiting Juno spacecraft is slated to make a special, fast flyby of one of those icy moons, Europa, on the 29th. The spacecraft is planned to pass a little over 200 miles above the moon's surface, returning images and science data.
Turning to the evening sky, you'll have Saturn together with Jupiter as your planetary companions all month long. On the night of the 9th, Jupiter and Saturn escort the Moon across the sky. You'll find the trio rising in the southeast in the first couple of hours after dark, and gliding westward together over the course of the night. By the end of the month, you'll find the pair of planets rising even earlier, appearing in the east soon after it gets dark, with bright Jupiter hanging low in the sky.
September 23rd brings the September equinox, which marks the start of fall in the Northern Hemisphere, and the start of spring in the Southern Hemisphere. The equinoxes occur twice per year when Earth's tilt with respect to the Sun is the same for both hemispheres. Both north and south receive the same amount of sunlight, and day and night are, briefly, of nearly equal length.
The night sky is always a celestial showcase. Explore its wonders from your own backyard.
The following Deep Sky Objects are found in constellations that peak during the month. Some can be viewed with a small telescope, but the majority will require a moderate to large telescope. The following is adapted from my personal viewing list: "The Guy Pirro 777 Best and Brightest Deep Sky Objects."
NGC 6981 Globular Cluster M72
NGC 6994 Open Cluster M73
NGC 7009 Planetary Nebula C55, Herschel 400 H1-4 Saturn Nebula
NGC 7089 Globular Cluster M2
NGC 7293 Planetary Nebula C63 Helix Nebula
NGC 7606 Galaxy Herschel 400 H104-1
NGC 7723 Galaxy Herschel 400 H110-1
NGC 7727 Galaxy Herschel 400 H111-1
- NGC 7724 Galaxy - Paired with H111-1
NGC 7099 Globular Cluster M30
Caldwell 9 Diffuse Nebula C9 Cave Nebula
IC 1396 Open Cluster P6 Elephant Trunk Cluster
NGC 40 Planetary Nebula C2 Herschel 400 H58-4 Bow Tie Nebula
NGC 188 Open Cluster C1
NGC 2300 Galaxy P220
- NGC 2276 Galaxy - Paired with P220
NGC 6939 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H42-6
NGC 6946 Galaxy C12, Herschel 400 H76-4
NGC 7023 Open Cluster C4 Iris Nebular Cluster
NGC 7142 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H66-7
NGC 7160 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H67-8
NGC 7226 Open Cluster P140
NGC 7235 Open Cluster P7
NGC 7261 Open Cluster P8
NGC 7380 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H77-8
NGC 7510 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H44-7
NGC 7762 Open Cluster P141
IC 1434 Open Cluster P159
IC 1442 Open Cluster P160
IC 5217 Planetary Nebula P230
NGC 7209 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H53-7
NGC 7243 Open Cluster C16, Herschel 400 H75-8
NGC 7245 Open Cluster P161
NGC 7296 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H41-7
NGC 7078 Globular Cluster M15
NGC 7217 Galaxy Herschel 400 H207-2
NGC 7331 Galaxy C30, Herschel 400 H53-1
NGC 7448 Galaxy Herschel 400 H251-2
NGC 7457 Galaxy P173
NGC 7479 Galaxy C44, Herschel 400 H55-1
NGC 7814 Galaxy C43
IC 4684 Diffuse Nebula P182
IC 4725 Open Cluster M25
IC 4776 Planetary Nebula P183
NGC 6440 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H150-1
NGC 6445 Planetary Nebula Herschel 400 H586-2 Little Gem Nebula
NGC 6469 Open Cluster P184
NGC 6494 Open Cluster M23
NGC 6507 Open Cluster P185
NGC 6514 Diffuse Nebula M20, Herschel 400 H41-1 Trifid Nebula
NGC 6520 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H7-7
NGC 6522 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H49-1
NGC 6523 Diffuse Nebula M8 Lagoon Nebula
NGC 6528 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H200-2
NGC 6530 Open Cluster P49
NGC 6531 Open Cluster M21
NGC 6540 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H198-2
NGC 6544 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H197-2
NGC 6546 Open Cluster P106
NGC 6553 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H12-4
NGC 6558 Globular Cluster P107
NGC 6561 Open Cluster P186
NGC 6563 Planetary Nebula P187
NGC 6565 Planetary Nebula P248
NGC 6567 Planetary Nebula P188
NGC 6568 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H30-7
NGC 6569 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H201-2
NGC 6583 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H31-7
NGC 6590 Open Cluster P50
NGC 6603 Open Cluster M24 Small Sagittarius Star Cloud
NGC 6613 Open Cluster M18
NGC 6618 Open Cluster M17 Omega Nebula
NGC 6624 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H50-1
NGC 6626 Globular Cluster M28
NGC 6629 Planetary Nebula Herschel 400 H204-2
NGC 6637 Globular Cluster M69
NGC 6638 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H51-1
NGC 6642 Globular Cluster Herschel 400 H205-2
NGC 6645 Open Cluster Herschel 400 H23-6
NGC 6647 Open Cluster P108
NGC 6652 Globular Cluster P31
NGC 6656 Globular Cluster M22
NGC 6681 Globular Cluster M70
NGC 6715 Globular Cluster M54
NGC 6716 Open Cluster P109
NGC 6717 Globular Cluster P110
NGC 6723 Globular Cluster P52
NGC 6809 Globular Cluster M55
NGC 6818 Planetary Nebula Herschel 400 H51-4
NGC 6822 Galaxy C57 Barnard’s Galaxy
NGC 6864 Globular Cluster M75
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