3 night sky events happening in September
A full moon and two planets at opposition
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - September won’t bring any meteor showers or eclipses, but there will be a beautiful full moon and two of our solar system’s largest planets will reach opposition this month.
Opposition is the term used when Earth is directly between the sun and an outer planet. Opposition provides the best opportunity to view a planet because it’s at its closest point to Earth. Planets are also visible all night long when at opposition.
September’s Full Moon
The first of September’s three astronomy events will be the month’s full moon. Also called the Harvest Moon, September’s full moon will shine brightly on the 10th. Unlike the last four months this will not be a supermoon.
It may not be as bright as the last four full moons, but it will still be worth viewing. The best time to view will be between midnight and 6 a.m. on September 10th and again after 8 p.m. that same day.
In case you’re wondering where the name comes from, the full moon that occurs closest to the fall equinox is called the Harvest Moon. This year that full moon happens to be the one that occurs this month.
Neptune at Opposition
Following the Harvest Moon will be the farthest planet from Earth reaching opposition. Neptune -- the 8th planet from the sun -- will be at its closest point to Earth in 2022 on the 15th and 16th.
This will allow the planet to shine brighter than any other point this year. Even so, you will not be able to see Neptune without the help of either binoculars or a telescope.
That’s because the blue gas giant is about 2.7 billion miles from Earth. That distance makes it impossible to see with the naked eye. It’s actually the only planet that requires the use of a visual aid to be seen.
The days leading up to and following opposition will also provide a solid viewing opportunity of Neptune. If you miss this chance you will have to wait about another year to get your next chance because it takes Neptune about 165 Earth years to make a single revolution around the sun!
Jupiter at Opposition
Finally this month will be the largest planet in our solar system reaching opposition. The gas giant will reach its closest point to Earth of 2022 on the 26th. Unlike Neptune, Jupiter does not require any sort of optical support to view.
Jupiter is large enough and close enough -- 367.3 million miles away -- to be seen with the naked eye. It will appear as a bright star in the night sky and no details can be seen, but at least you can view it without binoculars or a telescope.
Now if you use a telescope or pair of binoculars, the view will be completely different. You will be able to see some of the planet’s details and even get a good view of some of its moons!
The next time Jupiter reaches opposition is early November of 2023.
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