September Skies, part 1

Fall is fast approaching in the Northern Hemisphere, and that means the seasonal constellations are changing. In the southern view, we have a low parade of zodiacal constellations (the path the Sun, Moon, and planets take across the sky), some of which you’ve been watching this summer (Libra, Scorpius, and Sagittarius), and some which have been rising (Capricornus, Aquarius, Pisces, Aries).

Looking southeast in early September around 9:30 p.m. CDT, mid-northern latitudes (this image is set for approximately 47 N). There is a low parade of zodiacal constellations along the horizon. Above them are Pegasus and Andromeda, Aquila of Summer Triangle fame, and Ophiuchus who is, astronomically speaking, also a zodiacal constellation.

Capricornus is a Sea Goat…whatever that is. The illustration looks like a mergoat. Aquarius is a water boy. Pisces is a pair of fish. Aries is a ram. Don’t be alarmed if you have a hard time picking these ones out in the night sky—they’re on the dimmer side of the constellations. Dim and stringy, was always my impression of them–not to be dismissive or anything. Pisces’ circlets make it relatively easy to pick out: one circlet comes right under the square of Pegasus, the other underneath Andromeda. The circlets are connected by a large check mark. And Capricornus, well, I always saw it as a freaky pair of clown lips. Sorry if I’ve ruined it for anyone.

Do you have any tricks for seeing these constellations? Let me know via comments or email, and I’ll post some if you like.

Looking North, the Big Dipper is moving to its fall position low in the north, looking like a wheel barrow ready to pick up falling leaves or apples. Maybe leaves fall down a winding path, like the tail of Draco. To the left is Bootes, the kite-shaped Herdsman constellation marked by the bright star Arcturus. You can use the bent handle of the Dipper to “arc to Arcturus,” and as you do, you are tracing out one side of the kite. On the other side of the kite is the shiny circlet of Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown. And don’t forget: the two stars at the end of the Big Dipper’s bowl point up to the North Star Polaris, which is at the end of the Little Dipper’s hand/Ursa Minor’s tail.

Kids’ northwest-facing star map for mid-latitude Northern Hemisphere skies, early September, 9:30 p.m. CDT. The Big Dipper in autumn is positioned like a wheel barrow in evening skies, ready to pick up falling leaves, which maybe fall along a winding path like the tail of Draco. Bootes the Herdsman looks more like a kite than a herdsman.

Come back soon for Part 2 when we’ll look at Queen Cassiopeia’s court. Then it will be story time!

This entry was posted in Constellation Activities, Fall Constellations, Observing Without A Telescope and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to September Skies, part 1

  1. Pingback: November 2012 star map | Astronomommy

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