Celestial events in the skies for the week of Sept. 19-25, 2017 as compiled for The Loafer by Mark D. Marquette.
It’s officially sweater weather! The Autumnal Equinox occurs Friday, Sept. 22 at 4:02 pm when the Sun crosses the equator into the Southern Hemisphere (where it’s finally Spring!). That means equal amounts of daylight and night time, though the balance begins tipping toward 12-plus hours of darkness—which is just fine for stargazers who endured the long daylight of Summer.
Tuesday, September 19
New Moon is today, and just one month ago (28.5-day lunar time) was the Great American Eclipse. Boy, does time fly when you’re having fun! Photographers can get those great crescent Moon shots against the landscape beginning Thursday evening.
Wednesday, September 20
A good week to see the Milky Way as moonlight will not interfere, and if you’re in the mountains, lake or countryside away from city light pollution. The three stars of the Summer Triangle (Vega, Deneb and Altair) frames the arm of our Galaxy directly overhead, while the fishhook stars of Scorpius and teapot dot-to-dot of Sagittarius show us the center of our island of 200 billion stars.
Thursday, September 21
This is the hardest time to see the familiar Big Dipper as it dredges along the northeast horizon seemingly plowing up the landscape. That’s why in England, this familiar 7-star asterism is called “The Plough.”
Friday, September 22
The Autumnal Equinox is today, but you’ve already been experiencing equal day and night. And if you’ve spent any time outdoors, you see the browning leaves, hear the insects chiming and notice the flowering weeds of golden rod, milkweed and many others.
Saturday, September 23
The eighth planet, Neptune, was discovered on this date in 1846, first seen for what it was by J.G. Galle of Berlin Observatory and a student assistant H.L. d’Arrest. The planet was found by the gravitational effect on Uranus, the perturbations worked out independently by mathematicians Urban LeVerrier in Paris and John Adams in London.
Sunday, September 24
Happy 87th birthday to moonwalker John Young, a true American astronaut hero. He blasted off Earth in two Gemini, two Apollo and two Space Shuttle missions, including walking on the Moon with Apollo 16 in 1972 and the very dangerous maiden flight of Shuttle Columbia in 1980. Now afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, you can read about his amazing, 42-year space career in the 2012 autobiography “Forever Young.”
Monday, September 25
On this 1997 date in space history Shuttle Atlantis was launched on the STS-86 mission of SpaceHab in the cargo bay and the 7th docking with the Russian Mir Space Station. Two American astronauts were exchanged to stay with two cosmonauts, and the six others in Atlantis made it a then record 10 humans in space.