Sep 7th: What’s Up Tonight, September Southern Skies Edition

By on September 7, 2014 in

Podcaster: Alice Enevoldsen aka Alice’s AstroInfo

Alices-Astro-InfoTitle: What’s Up Tonight, September Southern Skies Edition

Organization: Alice’s AstroInfo

Link :
Heavens-Above Starcharts for anywhere, anytime, not installation required
Stellarium Free planetarium-style program for your computer or tablet
7Timer – Clear sky charts (will it be clear enough for stargazing?). Input your location, then click on “ASTRO” in the pop-up.

Description: Presented as a counterpart to Awesome Astronomy’s Northern Hemisphere monthly forecast, Alice talks about what’s visible from the Southern Hemisphere. Focused at about 33°S, this forecast should work for anywhere between 25°S and 50°S

Bio: Alice Enevoldsen currently volunteers as one of NASA’s Solar System Ambassadors. She has been working in planetariums since 1996, has a B.A. in Astronomy-Geology from Whitman College, and a Masters in Teaching from Seattle University. Her fascination with the stars led her to try her hand at astronomy research in Boston and Walla Walla, where she realized that her calling in life was actually to work in outreach and be a translator for scientists. Now she works hard to share her love of the stars and excitement about astronomy with as many people as possible.

Today’s sponsor: This episode of “365 Days of Astronomy” is sponsored by — no one. We still need sponsors for many days in 2014, so please consider sponsoring a day or two. Just click on the “Donate” button on the lower left side of this webpage, or contact us at


Hello, I’m Alice Enevoldsen, coming to you not-so-live from Alice’s AstroInfo with a ‘cast about what’s up in the September 2014 skies … over the Southern Hemisphere.

How are you today? … I hope you’re not coming down with the cold my family had this week. Luckily, it isn’t contagious through headphones.

I’m here as a foil for Ralph and Paul with Awesome Astronomy and their monthly 365 Days of Astronomy podcast about what’s up in the skies over the Northern Hemisphere. I’ll be basing this podcast around 33-35°S, so it should be good anywhere from about 25°S to 45° or 50°S. This includes major cities in Australia, New Zealand, and southern Africa, as well as the parts of South America south of Paraguay. Those of you living nearer the equator will have to combine both podcasts to figure out what’s most visible in your sky.

Let’s get started with some Notable Sky Objects and Events in the September skies.

First off, we have yet another Supermoon! September 9th will be the fifth and final supermoon of 2014. Don’t worry, we’ll have plenty more where those came from next year as well. Like eclipses, they happen on a routine schedule.

A couple weeks later on September 21st the MAVEN spacecraft will enter orbit around Mars. I’m especially excited for this one, because it was the first spacecraft launch I’ve ever seen in person, back last November. MAVEN is an orbiter with no cameras onboard, and it’s working to solve the mystery of Mars’s thin atmosphere. Was the prehistoric thicker atmosphere blown off by solar wind, or did it ::phhhhhhtttttt:: just trickle away?

The very next day brings the September equinox, the southern hemisphere’s vernal equinox. The exact time is September 23 at 2:29am UTC, so depending on where you are that will be either September 22nd or 23rd. In the Americas it will be September 22nd. In the countries of Africa, all of Australia, and New Zealand it will be on the 23rd.

Auroral activity has been picking up near both poles over the past few weeks, though every time I’ve looked at the maps there’s been significantly more excitement going on around the Antarctic circle than the Arctic. You still have to be pretty far south to see them, so South America south of of El Calafate, in New Zealand, or anywhere in Antarctica.

Moving on to the “Hey, what’s that?” section:

Let’s start with morning people today. Those of you who prefer to see your stars before the Sun rises will notice Jupiter shining low in the East before sunrise. Above it will be Procyon, and a little more than halfway up the sky (and a little to the right) will be Sirius – the brightest star in the night sky. Venus is visible briefly at the beginning of the month near Jupiter, but then disappears into the Sun’s glow.

If you’re up in the evening instead, like me, you’ll first notice Saturn and Mars—still paired, but drifting apart over the course of the month, and Arcturus or Vega near the horizon. Vega is farther East, Arcturus is farther West—both along the Northern horizon.

It is worth mentioning, that this may be your month to spot Mercury! It’s not usually noticeable, but it is visible without magnification. Binoculars might make it easier, especially if your eyes aren’t the best at finding tiny details. It will be quite close to Spica in the Western sky after sunset on September 21st. Both the star, Spica, and the planet should be about the same brightness.

Each of those stars I mentioned earlier is part of its own official constellation, according to the IAU, the International Astronomical Union. The whole sky is divided up into 88 official constellations, much like states or countries divide up the continents on Earth. Every star in the sky is in one of these constellations, whether or not it is used to make up the picture the constellation represents.

Most cultures were ignored when the 88 official constellations were chosen, so they’re mostly Greek, with a smattering of modern constellations filling in some of the gaps, as well as Arabic star names. Many cultures, but not all, have sky lore of their own—and it isn’t always dot-to-dot picture.

One of my favorite kinds of constellations are the dark constellations of some of the ancient cultures of South America. I just found out these dark constellations are also reported to be part of some Aboriginal Australian sky lore as well. These dark constellations are the exact opposite of what we classically refer to as a constellation. Instead of looking at the dots of light and making a picture or a story, we look at the dark, the space in between the stars. I can’t think of a better illustration of how people from different cultures take the same observations and information and interpret it differently—the human brain is great at making patterns, and lots of them, so our brains make different patterns.

These dark constellations are more visible in the Southern Hemisphere, because you can see more of the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way, there. The dark dust-bands that run through the Milky Way make easy-to-spot dark constellations that are very dark against the brighter background of the galaxy. In these dark dust lanes, see if you can spot a mama llama and her baby, a frog, an emu, the Maya celestial birth canal, and the officially recognized (though not as a constellation) Coalsack. (Many of these overlap as they are names from a variety of cultures).

Moving on, here’s an overview of the upcoming Moon Phases:

The first quarter moon, September 2 and October 1 or 2 (depending on your timezone), is ideal for late afternoon and early evening observation.

The full moon on September 9 rises around sunset, and sets around sunrise.

The last quarter moon is September 15 or 16 (again, the time zone thing). For the week around the last quarter moon it is visible in the early morning sky.

The day of the new moon, September 24, you won’t see the Moon at all, but a day before or after you might see a tiny sliver of a crescent Moon as the Sun rises or sets, and a few days outside of that the Moon will be up all day.

Oh! Before I forget, on September 14th, the TARDIS will be making its closest approach to the Earth—(this is where I make TARDIS noises)—I’m sure the reals sound effect is copyrighted, so you’ll have to make do with me. It isn’t really going to be very close at all, as it’ll still be out between Mars and Jupiter. I am, clearly, talking about the asteroid here, and not a blue police box that’s smaller on the outside.

Well! Thanks for tuning in, I hope I gave you some things to keep your eyes peeled for. I’ll add some of my favorite planning links to the end of the transcript for you as usual. If you have suggestions ,    for the “What’s up tonight, Southern Skies Edition,” please leave them in the comments!

Once again, I’m Alice Enevoldsen. You can find me online as AlicesAstroInfo on Twitter, Facebook, and

Keep your eyes high, and if you want to hear more from me next year, go donate to support 365 Days of Astronomy.

Bye! See you later!

End of podcast:

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