Admin and Founder of ‘The Secrets Of The Universe’ and former intern at Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore, I am a science student pursuing a Master’s in Physics from India. I love to study and write about Stellar Astrophysics, Relativity & Quantum Mechanics.
It’s a planet fest! September is the month when all the planets will be visible in the sky. While Jupiter and Saturn made their closest approach to the Earth in July and now shine together in the post-dusk sky, Mars and Venus dazzle in the pre-dawn sky. Let us learn how to locate all the planets in the sky of September 2020. If you want to know about all the astronomy events in the month of September, please watch the video given below or read this article.
Mercury will reach the highest point in the evening sky on September 28. So, as the month progresses, there’ll be a better chance to spot the tiny planet. However, it will be a difficult task because of its proximity to the Sun. Mercury will shine bright at a magnitude of 0.0 in the constellation of Virgo. This article explains the concept of magnitude in astrophysics.
It is observable for only a few weeks each time it reaches the greatest separation from the Sun – moments referred to as the greatest elongation. These apparitions repeat roughly once every 3–4 months, taking place alternately in the morning and evening skies, depending whether Mercury lies to the east of the Sun or the west.
Three days later, on October 1, Mercury will be at its greatest elongation east.
The Roman Goddess of Love dazzles in the pre-dawn sky. Venus is the brightest planet. In the absence of the Moon, it becomes the brightest ‘speck of light’ in the night sky. Venus rises in the east at around 02:30 and dominates the sky before sunrise. It is currently in the constellation of Gemini. On September 1, Venus will reach its maximum altitude in the sky. The image below shows an illustration of the planet in the sky of 1 September 2020.
Mars is the planet that is going to steal the show. Mars is approaching its opposition – its closest approach to the Earth. Till the time you read this line, Mars will be 40 km closer. Mars rises in the East around a couple of hours before midnight and is high up in the sky around 04:00. It is then lost to dawn twilight.
Currently, Mars is in the constellation of Pisces shining at mag -1.64 and its altitude and brightness will increase as days go by. It is now brighter than Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. By the end of this month, it will outshine Jupiter to become the brightest planet in the sky after Venus.
On September 6 the Moon will occult Mars. The Moon will pass in front of the Red Planet and this rare event will be visible from the parts of South America, Africa, and Southern Europe.
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Having recently made its closest approach to our planet, Jupiter dominates the night sky along with Saturn. Jupiter was at opposition on July 14 and hence it is still shining brightly in the constellation of Sagittarius. Jupiter rises at dusk, reaches its highest point around midnight before getting lost in the twilight.
On September 25, the Moon will pass 1°35′ to the south of Jupiter. The Moon will be 8 days old.
Saturn shines to the east of bright Jupiter. While Jupiter was at opposition on July 14, Saturn made its closest approach to the Earth seven days later, on July 21. It is fainter than Jupiter. On September 26, the Moon and Saturn will pass within 2°18′ of each other. Refer to the above sky chart to locate the ringed planet.
Uranus is currently emerging from behind the Sun. It is visible in the dawn sky rising a few minutes before midnight in the constellation of Aries. Since its magnitude is 5.80, you’ll need a telescope to watch this planet. Uranus will be at opposition on 31 October.
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Neptune will be at opposition on September 12. Around the same time, it will make its closest approach to the Earth. At opposition, the Sun, the Earth, and the superior planet lie in a straight line, with the Earth in the middle. The opposition is the best time to watch a planet. Since it lies opposite to the Sun, it rises soon after sunset, reaches the highest point in the sky around midnight, and sets at dawn. Neptune is currently in Aries. At a magnitude of 7.84, it isn’t visible with the naked eye.