Planets to See: September 2015

Lovely Earth is not entirely lonely.  We have five planets that have been observed since the dawn of civilization.  The five are visible with the naked eye in the sky at different times of year, and were given the name planets as a derivation of the Greek ‘planetes,’ meaning ‘wanderers.’  They do wander, or at least they appear to move against the background of the stars, since they are much closer to the Earth as it orbits the Sun.

So what planets are visible this month? For September 2015 and back to school, you had better be willing to get up early.  But if you do, there are some serious treats in store.

Saturn: For the first week of September, Saturn is visible in the western horizon near the visibly-red star Antares.  It’s only 22 degrees above the horizon when it pops into view at 8:30pm EST, and it will get lower each night before the end of the month, slowly fading from view.

Venus: Venus is rising around 5am, and should stay bright until just before sunrise each morning.  It joins the Moon and Mars in a beautiful conjunction on the morning of September 10th.  Venus will continue to rise right through to October.

Mars: The red planet returns to morning skies after being obscured by sunlight for most of the summer.  It will be hard to spot, but will rise a tiny bit slower than Venus, sticking to the left of the brighter sibling.  By the end of the month Venus pulls away and Jupiter catches up, leaving Mars in between the brighter objects.

Jupiter:  The king of the planets won’t make its true debut until about the 23rd of September, finally growing bright enough to be seen in the Sun’s glare.  It has been moving steadily behind the Sun for months, and will reappear, finishing off the month below Mars and Venus respectively.

There’s the planet report for September, have a happy return to school!

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