Podcaster: Rob Webb
Organization: Physics teacher at Pequea Valley High School
Description:Welcome to Observing With Webb, where the armchair astronomer figures out what they’re looking at, why it’s so cool, and what they should check out next. This year, September brings us 4 planets, another start to Fall, and some very good news for the Pequea Valley Planetarium.
Bio: Rob Webb is a physics, astronomy, and sustainability teacher at Pequea Valley High School in Pennsylvania. His passions include teaching, astronomy, astrophotography, planetariums, running, reading, and golf. A proud graduate of Dickinson College in 2005, he also obtained a Master’s Degree in Science Education from Penn State University after conducting research in regards to the current state of planetariums in Pennsylvania. Feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Welcome to Observing With Webb, where the armchair astronomer figures out what they’re looking at, why it’s so cool, and what they should check out next. This year, September brings us 4 planets, another start to Fall, and some very good news for the Pequea Valley Planetarium. Before talking about the planets, events, and constellations for September, I have some special news and a special request. I’ve been running the Pequea Valley Planetarium coming up on 10 years now, with it being 40 years older than that. It’s old and starting to fail. After writing a proposal and submitting it with hundreds of other teachers, Farmers Insurance picked Pequea Valley’s proposal as one of the 15 finalists for the grant. They are now leaving the final say to public voting. The 6 proposals with the most votes will each get $100,000 to fulfill their proposal.
This is where I’m asking you a favor. The entire public gets to vote once every single day in October. Please take the time to visit https://www.farmers.com/thank-americas-teachers/ each and every day in the month of October. I even have a sign up for daily reminders in your email on our planetarium website: https://sites.google.com/site/pvplanetarium/. This will be huge for our planetarium. As the title of the proposal states, it will re-ignite STEM education in an aging and ailing space race planetarium. Our lights are literally about to go out. Let’s keep the universe in Pequea Valley. There are more details on our planetarium website, but here are the basics of what this grant will bring us. We plan to use the money to:
- Establish a free week-long Summer Space STEM Camp for all students in the district, geared for elementary and intermediate school learners, with secondary student counselors
- Expand and improve our current programming by incorporating STEM curriculum into 3rd and 4th grade expanded field trips
- Replace the current lighting system, whose bulbs are no longer produced
- Replace the bolted down seats with new, padded, moveable, stackable chairs, thus opening up the room to more possibilities
- Replace the Jerry-rigged sound system
- Refurbish the star ball
PLANETS…well, the ones visible with your naked eye
Planets you can see around Sunset – Venus (W), Saturn (SW), Mars (S)
Planets you can see throughout the night – None
Planets you can see in the Morning – Mercury (E – end of the month)
Mercury – You might just be able to catch Mercury up to an hour and half before sunrise in the final week of September. Look E after 5:50am, when it rises up to about 15˚ by sunrise, which is about 7am.
Venus – Look W after sunset, and Venus will be only about 10˚ above the horizon, but very bright.
Mars & Saturn – Look SSW after sunset and bring a sky map of Scorpius. Saturn and Mars start out the month about 6˚ apart, with Mars to the left of Saturn, and Saturn about 6˚ above the star Antares. Throughout the month, Mars moves away to about 20˚ from Saturn and Antares at the end. Both are visible until about 10:30pm, when they set in the W.
Jupiter – Don’t even try. It’ll be back for mornings in October.
New Moon – 1st (darkest skies) – If you live in central Africa, you’ll see an annular eclipse of the Sun, but no events in North America. More info here: http://is.gd/Sep2016annulareclipse
3rd – Close Encounter – Moon, Venus – Look to the W in the 45 minutes after sunset (7:30ish) and you might just be able to catch a VERY thin crescent Moon to the left of bright Venus. You’ll need a very clear view of the horizon, clear skies, and binoculars most likely.
First Quarter Moon – 9th (Visible until midnight)
7th – 9th – Close Encounter – Moon, Mars, Saturn – Look SW once the sky is starting to get dark, and find a nice thick crescent Moon. On the 7th, Saturn will be about 10˚ to the left of the Moon, with red Mars about 8˚ to the left and a little down from Saturn. The following night, the Moon will have moved to be only 3˚ above Saturn, and on the 9th the Moon will make its way past Saturn and Mars, being 13˚ to the left of Saturn and 8˚ above Mars.
Full Moon – 16th (Visible all night) – Technically, there’s a penumbral lunar eclipse, but it’s very hard to see them. Also, only those of us in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific would be able to observe this one.
22nd – Fall Equinox – When all locations on Earth experience a day of almost exactly 12 hours and a night of almost exactly 12 hours. It is the astronomical first day of fall, even though meteorologically it typically starts in the beginning of September.
Last Quarter Moon – 23rd (Visible from midnight into the morning)
29th – Close Encounter – Moon, Mercury – Look E after 6am and before sunrise (7am). Bring your binoculars to look for a VERY thin crescent Moon rising up from the horizon, with Mercury just 1˚ above it. This is likely your best shot at catching Mercury this month.
New Moon – 30th (darkest skies)
CONSTELLATIONS… (see sky map link at the bottom for a Star Map for this month – or ask Mr. Webb) Look straight up and you’ll see…
Just after Sunset (around 7:30pm) – Lyra the Harp, Cygnus the Swan
Extra Challenge! Use binoculars (or even a telescope) and a star chart to scan through the southern constellation of Sagittarius. There are at least 7 easily visible clusters and nebulas up and to the right of the “teapot” of Sagittarius.
Between Sunset and Midnight – Lyra, Cygnus, Aquila (a little to the south) – These are the Summer constellations, and since they are visible right above us around midnight (and to the east after sunrise), it’s now summer! More details below in the “General Constellation Finding Tips”
Midnight – Lacerta, Pegasus, Andromeda – Extra Challenge! Using your naked eye (dark-adapted and in a dark area) or binoculars under normal conditions and a star chart, try finding our neighboring Andromeda Galaxy. It’ll be a faint fuzzy in the constellation Andromeda.
Early Morning – Perseus, Auriga – Also, if you look to the SE in the morning, you’ll find the winter constellations of Orion, Taurus, Auriga, Gemini, and Canis Major.
GENERAL CONSTELLATION FINDING TIPS:
Summer Constellations: Lyra, Cygnus, Aquila, Delphinus
Look straight up before 10pm and you’ll be able to see Lyra (the Harp), Cygnus (the Swan), Aquila (the Eagle), (and Delphinus the Dolphin.) These three constellations have the three brightest stars of the summer constellations (Vega, Deneb, Altair – respectively.) Those bright stars create the summer triangle. Off to the east of this is the small but beautiful constellation of Delphinus. If you’re under dark skies (away from city lights) you may just catch a glimpse of the Milky Way passing through Cygnus and Aquila. If you’re looking past 10pm, they’ll be moving toward the West and lower in the sky.
Fall Constellations: Andromeda, Pegasus
If you can find the Summer Triangle and Delphinus, about 40˚ to the East (leftish) will be the Great Square of the fall constellation Pegasus. Perhaps you’ll even see the two curves of Andromeda off of one side, with the Andromeda Galaxy as a small, faint fuzzy nearby (you’ll need dark skies to see it). A sky map will help you tremendously in finding these. You’ll see these in the East after sunset, straight above you around midnight, and in the West in the morning.
Use a sky map from www.skymaps.com to help you out.
End of podcast:
365 Days of Astronomy
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