Some daily events in the changing sky for September 5 September 13.
Friday, September 5
Saturday, Sept. 6
Sunday, September 7
Monday, September 8
Tuesday, September 9
Wednesday, September 10
Thursday, September 11
Friday, September 12
Saturday, September 13
Want to become a better amateur astronomer? Learn your way around the constellations. They're the key to locating everything fainter and deeper to hunt with binoculars or a telescope. For an easy-to-use constellation guide covering the whole evening sky, use the big monthly foldout map in each issue of Sky & Telescope, the essential magazine of astronomy. Or download our free Getting Started in Astronomy booklet (which only has bimonthly maps).
Once you get a telescope, to put it to good use you'll need a detailed, large-scale sky atlas (set of maps; the standards are Sky Atlas 2000.0 or the smaller Pocket Sky Atlas) and good deep-sky guidebooks (such as Sky Atlas 2000.0 Companion by Strong and Sinnott, the even more detailed Night Sky Observer's Guide by Kepple and Sanner, or the classic Burnham's Celestial Handbook). Read how to use them effectively.
Can a computerized telescope take their place? As Terence Dickinson and Alan Dyer say in their Backyard Astronomer's Guide, "A full appreciation of the universe cannot come without developing the skills to find things in the sky and understanding how the sky works. This knowledge comes only by spending time under the stars with star maps in hand and a curious mind."
Without these, they wisely say, "the sky never becomes a friendly place."
More beginners' tips: "How to Start Right in Astronomy".
This Week's Planet Roundup
Mercury (about magnitude 0) is 3° or 4° lower left of much-brighter Venus, low in the west-southwest in bright twilight, as shown at the top of this page. Bring binoculars.
Venus (magnitude 3.8) is still low in the glow of sunset. Look for it above the western horizon about 30 minutes after sundown. Fainter Mercury is just to its lower left, as shown at the top of this page. Look too for even fainter Mars.
Mars (a dim magnitude +1.7!) is closing in on Venus from the upper left. It passes 1/3° south (lower left) of Venus on September 11th, then moves farther down to the lower right. See the illustration at the top of this page and use binoculars! Spica, magnitude +1.0, is also nearby.
Jupiter (magnitude 2.5, in Sagittarius) shines bright and steady in the south right after dark, and lower in the southwest later. It's above the Sagittarius Teapot and just below the smaller, dimmer Teaspoon.
Saturn is hidden behind the glare of the Sun.
Uranus and Neptune (magnitudes 5.7 and 7.8, respectively, in Aquarius and Capricornus) are well up in the southeast during evening. Use our online article and finder charts, or see the September Sky & Telescope, page 63.
Pluto (magnitude 14.0, in the northwestern corner of Sagittarius) is in the south-southwest right after dark. If you've got a big scope and a dark sky, use our article and finder chart.
All descriptions that relate to your horizon or zenith including the words up, down, right, and left are written for the world's mid-northern latitudes. Descriptions that also depend on longitude (mainly Moon positions) are for North America. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) equals Universal Time (known as UT, UTC, or GMT) minus 4 hours.
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