This Week’s Sky at a Glance, September 8 – September 15

Technically, any three stars in the sky will form some sort of a triangle, but there are those that stand out. Overhead in early evening is the best known celestial threesome, the isosceles Summer Triangle of Vega, Deneb and Altair. Straddling the Milky Way, each star is the brightest in their respective constellations of Lyra the Harp, Cygnus the Swan and Aquila the Eagle. An ancient tale of Eastern mythology depicted Vega and Altair as lovers separated by a river (the Milky Way). I look at them as an updated version of that tale, that of Running Bear and White Dove in the Johnny Preston hit written by the Big Bopper, J.P. Richardson. The Big Bopper would be a good name for a constellation.

With the Summer Triangle overhead, the constellation Triangulum the Triangle is low in the east below Andromeda. Known as a constellation for thousands of years, it has been said to represent, among other things, the Nile Delta and the island of Sicily. If you have a dark sky, use binoculars to look about a third of the way, and a tad to the right, between the tip of Triangulum and the orange star Mirach in Andromeda above to see the face-on spiral galaxy M33.

Now that summer is fading, and if you can’t wait for winter, just look to the east in morning darkness for the Winter Triangle. Orange Betelgeuse in Orion’s armpit joins with Orion’s companion Dog Stars of Sirius and Procyon to form an equilateral triangle. All three stars make the top ten in brightness, with Sirius leading the pack.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 6:48 am and sunset will occur at 7:44 pm, giving 12 hours, 56 minutes of daylight (6:54 am and 7:48 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 6:57 am and set at 7:30 pm, giving 12 hours, 33 minutes of daylight (7:02 am and 7:35 pm in Saint John).

The Moon is new on Sunday and passes near Jupiter on Thursday. Venus is low in the west after sunset, setting before 9 pm and appearing about one-third illuminated in a telescope. Jupiter sets at 10 pm so it is observed best in late twilight. Look for its Red Spot with a telescope at 9 pm on Monday. Saturn continues to give awesome views in the early evening while Mars is at its best after 10 pm. Mercury is moving sunward but can still be seen with binoculars. Comet 21P/ Giacobini-Zinner might be seen late evenings and early mornings this weekend within the same binocular field of star clusters M38 and M36 in Auriga, and close to M37 on Monday.

The Saint John Astronomy Club meets in the Rockwood Park Interpretation Centre on September 8 at 7 pm. The William Brydone Jack Astronomy Club meets on Tuesday at 7 pm in the UNB Fredericton Forestry / Earth Sciences Building. Next weekend has the final RASC NB star party of the season at the Kouchibouguac Fall Festival on September 14/15, and there is public observing at the Irving Nature Park in Saint John on September 14 from 7:30 to 11 pm (cloud date September 15).

Questions? Contact Curt Nason at nasonc@nbnet.nb.ca.

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