GARRETT COUNTY SKIES
By Dr. Bob Doyle, Frostburg State Planetarium
Garrett County Skies for September 2021 by Bob Doyle, Emeritus, Frostburg State University
Moon passes by 3 planets in September, Harvest Moon on Sept.20, Fall officially begins Sept.22
September begins with an Oakland sunrise at 6:46 a.m., sunset at 7:50 p.m., with 13 hrs. and 4 min. of sunlight that day. The sun is in Leo through September 15, then moving into Virgo for the rest of the month. On September 26, day and night are each 12 hours in length. September ends with a 7:13 a.m., sunset at 7:03 p.m., with 11 hrs. and 50 min. of sunlight that day. So from the start to the end of September, we lose an hour of sunlight.
The moon nearly lines up with the sun on September 6 (New Moon). This follows two weeks of the moon growing in lighted width in the evening sky. On September 9, the crescent moon will appear near the brilliant planet Venus in the western dusk. On September 11, the moon will appear near the planet Saturn in the western evening sky. On both September 12 & 13, the moon will appear near the bright planet Jupiter in the Southwest. September 13 is also the evening when the moon appears half full (like a ‘D’). Along the moon’s East edge, the sun there is rising, lighting up the raised rims of the craters. The evenings of September 12-14 are best for observing the moon’s craters with a telescope. The moon is full on September 20, rising about sunset and shining all through the night. This is the Harvest Moon that supplies extra evening moon light for the following two evenings. Colonial farmers used this extra moonlight to finish harvesting their crops at dusk.
Fall officially begins on September 22, when the sun’s vertical rays cross the equator, moving South. On this day, the sun rises due East and sets due West. The three brightest stars in the September evening skies are a mix of the brightest spring, summer and fall evening stars. Find the Big Dipper low in the North with it’s handle to the left and bowl to the right. Extend the handle to the left to a bright golden star – this is Arcturus (spring), driving the Big and Little Bears star groups to the right. High in the West is the bright white-blue star Vega, the brightest star of the Summer Triangle. Low in the Northeast is the bright golden star Capella, which can be seen on spring, fall and winter evenings.