Share the joy of outer space in September with Lucy Hambly

As we begin the transition to autumn, our night sky will remain as fascinating and active as ever. From equinoxes to meteor showers, here are some of September’s most anticipated astronomical phenomena and rocket launches. The Aurigid meteor shower will continue from August 28 through September 5 and is expected to reach its peak on September 1, specifically near 11:00pm (Eastern time). The Aurigid shower has been known to produce approximately six meteors per hour, though the moon will most likely create viewing difficulties throughout the night due to the phase it will be in at the time (Waning Gibbous), meaning that there may be extra light interference while attempting to view the shower. The comet of origin for the Aurigid meteor shower is Comet C/1911 N1, also known as Comet Kiess, a comet that orbits the Sun every 909,000 days (2488.71 years) with a perihelion of 0.68 AU and an aphelions of 366.72 AU. Comet Kiess has an extremely irregular orbit and an orbit similar to Earth’s, with a distance of 0.0 AU between them at its closest point.

(A photo of the peak night of the Aurigid meteor shower. Image credit: NASA)

A second meteor shower peak can be expected on September 9 at 5:00 PM (Eastern Time). The ε-Perseid meteor shower will be active from September 5 to September 9, and approximately four meteors per shower will most likely be visible at its peak time. As the moon will be approaching its new moon phase during the peak, it will present little to no interference or excess brightness during the shower.

September 15 is the scheduled launch date for the Soyuz MS-24 crewed mission to the International Space Station. It will be launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, at 11:44 AM (Eastern Time). The crew is comprised of commander Oleg Kononenko, a cosmonaut and engineer who will be experiencing his fifth spaceflight on the Soyuz MS-24 mission; flight engineer/spaceflight participant Nikolai Chub, test cosmonaut and economist who was assigned as a backup crew member of the Soyuz MS-22 mission; and flight engineer Loral O’Hara, an American engineer and NASA astronaut as well as a private pilot.

(The crew of the Soyuz MS-24 mission. From left to right: Loral O’Hara, Oleg Kononeko, and Nikolai Chub. Image credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

September 22 is the date of the autumnal equinox. In the Northern Hemisphere, this day marks the transition between the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. One interesting fact about the autumn equinox is that this day provides an increased chance of seeing the aurora borealis, or the Northern Lights. NASA has previously confirmed that geomagnetic activities are more frequent in spring and autumn, meaning that both equinoxes are ideal times to try to spot them.

(The Northern Lights as seen from Manitoulin Island, Ontario. Image credit: Kevin Wagar)

The full moon of September, the Harvest Moon, will arrive on September 29 and will reach peak illumination at 5:57 AM (Eastern Time). Each year, the full moon occurring closest to the fall equinox is referred to as the Harvest Moon, as, unlike other moons, the Harvest Moon typically rises at nearly the same time for multiple nights in a row, giving farmers several more evenings of moonlight before autumn arrives. This moon has also been called the Autumn Moon, the Falling Leaves Moon, the Leaves Turning Moon, the Yellow Leaf Moon, and the Moon of Brown Leaves.

September will provide many chances to experience the joy of astronomy firsthand. Whether you choose to view the Aurigid or the ε-Perseid meteor showers, watch the launch of the Soyuz MS-24 mission, or observe the September Harvest Moon, there is something in the world of astronomy for everyone this month. 



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