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Skies Over Lee's Summit - September
01 Venus near Pollux (Gemini) (am)
07 Moon at Apogee: 404300 km Jupiter at west quadrature
08 Moon very near Jupiter (am) Last Quarter Moon
09 Moon near Dwarf Planet Ceres (am)
10 Mercury Superior Conjunction
12 Moon near Venus and Beehive Cluster (am)
13 Venus near Beehive Star Cluster (am)
15 New Moon
By Bob Riddle
September starts off with two evening planets, Saturn and Mars, low over the western horizon as the Sun sets. Over the course of the next few weeks you may notice that both planets are setting earlier each evening, and at some point this month, depending on your local horizon, these two planets will no longer be visible in the evening. In a nutshell this is due to the Earth’s orbit around the Sun causing the Sun to appear to move eastward at the same rate the Earth is moving. This apparent motion of the Sun causes it to eventually catch up with the eastward moving, but slower, outer planets like Mars and Saturn. If you think about, it the opposite situation happens in the morning. The apparent eastward moving Sun pulls away from the slower eastward moving outer planets increasing the gap between the Sun and planets, thus allowing them to rise earlier and earlier.
With the various motions, real and apparent, taking place there are some standard terms used in Astronomy that describe rather specifically the location of a planet, for example, with respect to the Earth’s orbit. On the 7th Jupiter reaches west quadrature which means that with respect to the Earth and the Sun it is at a 90-degree angle from the Sun – much like our first and third quarter Moon.
While quadrature is limited to an outer planet all planets can reach a position called superior conjunction, on the opposite side of the Sun. Mercury is there on the 10th.
Some great binocular opportunities while following the Moon’s eastward orbital motion starting with the Moon near Jupiter and the Hyades Star Cluster on the 8th; the Moon and Venus near the Beehive Star Cluster on the 13th.
You won’t see it with binoculars but if you look at the Moon on the 9th you are also looking at Dwarf Planet Ceres, the largest object in the main asteroid Belt. This by the way is the next destination for the Dawn spacecraft which recently departed from the 3rd largest asteroid Vesta.
Word Bank: Star cluster- a star cluster is a group of stars held together due to their respective gravitational fields. The Beehive and Hyades are an example of one type, the open star cluster.
Downtown Lee's Summit Gourds and Ghosts on October 6