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Monday, 24 September 2018  •  Sunday, 14 Vine Moon 2018 (night)

Watching the night sky in Vine Moon 2018

10 September - 8 October 2018

Map of night sky at full moon: 25 September, 02:53 UTC
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Vine Moon 2018

The evening sky continues to be full of bright planets, but Venus gradually sinks into the sunset.

At the start of the month, Venus is the very bright evening star, high up in the west as seen from the southern hemisphere, and very low down in the south-west as seen from northern lands. The less bright Jupiter is nearby, a little above Venus. On 12 September, the new crescent moon is with Jupiter and Venus after the sunset. A lovely sight. As seen from the northern hemisphere, Venus is more or less below the moon. On 13 September, the moon is nearer Jupiter. As the month progresses, Venus sinks lower and lower, and from the middle of the month becomes hard to see from the northern hemisphere, though it is bright enough that you might be able to see it before sunset, low down in the south-west, well to the left of the sun.

Saturn is in the evening sky in the constellation Sagittarius. As seen from the northern hemisphere, it is fairly low down in the south soon after sunset. On the evening of 17 September, the moon is close to the north of the ringed planet, especially as seen from Europe, Africa and western Asia. The closest pass is around 17:25 (16:25 UTC), before the sun sets in Western Europe.

After its close encounter with Earth in July, Mars still shines brightly in the evening sky, low down as seen from the northern hemisphere and setting around midnight. On the evenings of 19 and 20 September, the moon is near Mars, though well to its north.

Mercury is out of view, passing the far side of the sun on 21 September.

The month ahead: Ivy Moon 2018

9 October - 7 November 2018

Map of night sky at full moon: 24 October, 16:45 UTC
Northern hemisphere perspective, aligned on the ecliptic. Morning sky to the left, evening to the right.

night sky map for Ivy Moon 2018

Mercury reaches 23.3° east of the sunset on 6 November, but the planets you can see in the evening sky this month very much depend on where you live.

In the southern hemisphere, you may be able to see all five naked eye planets in the evening sky at once if you have a good, clear western horizon. On 10 October, the new crescent moon is in the sky with Mercury, Venus and Jupiter, though Mercury is probably too low in the twilight to see. Spot it, if you can, below and to the left of the moon. Above, and left of the moon is very bright Venus, and above and to the right of that grouping is Jupiter. Saturn, less bright, but easier to see in the twilight, is high in the north-west, and still bright Mars is high in the north. After this, Venus sinks into the sunset, and Mercury rises. It passes north of Jupiter on 28 October. Jupiter then sinks into the sunset around 3 November.

In the northern hemisphere, Venus is already below the horizon after sunset, and Mercury can’t be seen except perhaps around 6 November, very low in the SW. The moon and the other naked eye planets are low above the southern horizon after sunset on 10 October. The moon is in the west-south-west, very bright Jupiter is in the SW, Saturn is just west of south, and still bright Mars is east-south-east. Jupiter slips down to the horizon in late October, and the other two planets move very gradually towards the sunset.

The moon is near Jupiter on 11 October. As seen from the west coast of North America, the moon is just north of Saturn on the evening of 14 October. The moon is near Mars on the evening of 18 October. The two can be seen closest from Asia and Australasia. Mars sets around midnight, depending on your location.

The ice giant planet Uranus comes to opposition on 24 October, after being closest to Earth on 23 October, 2824 million kilometres or 2.6 light hours away. It is pretty much invisible to the naked eye, but easily seen in binoculars on the borders of Pisces and Aries. On the evening of 24 October, the moon is nearby.

Venus passes this side of the sun on 26 October, just 2.26 light minutes from Earth, the closest any planet gets. It just makes it into the eastern morning sky by the end of the lunar month. As seen from the northern hemisphere, the very old crescent moon may be seen above the dawn alongside Venus on 6 November.

Look out for the Orionid meteors on the night 21/22 October, especially after midnight, though the moonlight may hide them somewhat.

William Morris
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