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Nighttrek Report: What to See in the September Sky

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The highlight of September is the full “Harvest Moon” on the 28th and 29th.  This will be the fourth “Super Moon” in a row!  A Super Moon occurs when the full Moon is at its closest to Earth. The name “Harvest Moon” comes from the fact that farmers have used the light from the September full Moon to help finish the harvest before the coming cold winter.  Look East after sunset and notice how large the full Super Moon is.

In September, only two of the naked-eye planets are easy to find.  Look southeast after dark and your eyes will be drawn to a bright point of light which is the ringed planet Saturn.  Saturn sits in the constellation of Aquarius the Water Bearer.  Look for Saturn on Wednesday, the 27th, when the Moon will appear to be very close.  Jupiter is in the east and is brighter than Saturn in September.  On the 4th of the month, Jupiter and the Moon will appear to be near each other in the constellation Aries, the Ram.  Mark Tuesday, Sept. 26, when Jupiter will be at its brightest.  Binoculars will allow you to see Jupiter’s four largest moons – Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.  Europa is almost the same size as Earth’s moon, while Ganymede, the largest moon in the Solar System, is larger than planet Mercury.

Make sure to get away from the city lights to see our “Milky Way” galaxy in the southwest in September. It is easy to spot and can be seen from the horizon to straight overhead if you are in a dark area.  The Milky Way galaxy is in a spiral shape and Earth is located in one of the spiral arms which lies about two-thirds of the way out from the center of the galaxy.

Every night in September, look straight up to see the famous Summer Triangle of three bright stars.  It is so bright you can see it from Dodger Stadium! 

The beautiful thin crescent Moon shows up on the weekend of the 16th and the 17th in the west after sundown.  The Moon’s rotation is at speed that causes us on Earth to always see the same side.  So no one on Earth has ever seen the dark side of the Moon.

DAWN PATROL: On Sept. 21 and 22, go outside at 6 am before the sunrise to see the planet Mercury.   Mercury will be low in the east.  Also in the east at that time, the planet Venus will be super bright and definitely earns its name as  “The Morning Star.”

Vandenberg Space Force Base plans to launch a Minuteman III missile on the night of September 5 at 11:47 pm.  Look northwest from the LA area.  Very frequently the launches are delayed so check Vandenberg’s website for the latest details. 

To help you plan ahead, Saturday, October 14, is the “Ring of Fire” eclipse.  This occurs when the Moon passes in front of the Sun but does not completely cover the Sun so that a ring of light appears.  The NIGHTTREK team is going to Beaver, Utah to see the eclipse. The center path starts in Oregon, goes through  Utah, and then on to New Mexico.  Protective eclipse eyewear is a must for this event. 

When not stargazing, Neill Simmons is a Wealth Advisor with LPL Financial in Woodland Hills.  If you have any astronomy or financial questions, he may be reached at (818) 936-2626 or


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