What I love most about rivers is
You can’t step in the same river twice
The water’s always changing, always flowing
Just Around the Riverbend – Disney’s Pocahontas
As one who loves rivers (I have been a kayaker since early teens) and loves the night sky, I can tell you there is a lot of truth to that song lyric. While the river’s waters continue to flow, so does the spectacle of the night sky as well. Generally, the sentiment rings true. You may have turned to look for the shooting star arcing across the sky after hearing someone shout “Shooting star!!”. Too late, that ship had sailed. This summer there was an amazing sight to behold. Our nearest neighbor in space, the Moon, formed an awesome pairing with Jupiter, Saturn and the Milky Way during the first week of August. You may have missed it then, but stand by for another great show in September. Perhaps the river flows your way again.
For convenience sake, we will be looking towards the southern skies around 9:00 PM during the time of these events. Look to see the two gas giants: Jupiter and Saturn blazing bright in the sky.
We will begin on September 2, 2019. The two giant planets lie near the constellations of Scorpius and Sagittarius. Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system. Look through a decent backyard telescope and you may see Jupiter and its four large moons.
You can find the heart of Scorpius the scorpion by searching for a red star just below Jupiter. That red star is a red supergiant star known as Antares (meaning the rival of Mars). It is over 700 times bigger than our sun. In many cultures, Scorpius was identified as s “fishhook”. The hook is the stinger on the scorpion’s tail. The head and pincers of the scorpion form from a trident of stars opposite the hook.
Sagittarius was identified as mythological centaur archer. Today we look for a “teapot” in the south to find its location. The bright object located just above the teapot of Sagittarius is Saturn. A glance through a decent telescope reveals it beautiful rings and possibly its largest moon, Titan.
Both Sagittarius and Scorpius align with the physical center of our home galaxy, the Milky Way. The bright area resembling a cloud between the two constellations is the center of the galaxy; its central hub. This is the Andromeda Galaxy. Our galaxy is of a similar shape but a bit smaller. We will discuss how to find the galaxy later in this blog.
The Moon is moving away from the setting sun, and appears to get brighter as the week progresses. This is known as the waxing phase. You will see a sliver of a moon on the 5th and the moon will move closer to Saturn for the next few nights.
The Moon moves towards the conjunction with Saturn later in the week. This is where the Moon will be on Sept. 7. When will it make its closest alignment with Saturn? What will the Moon’s phase be? Don’t miss it, that river is always changing.
What wonders await those that cast their gaze upward! Never stop asking “What’s up?”