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5 Things to Look for in the Sky this Fall

BY AMY SAYLE

The September equinox arrives on September 22, 2016, at 10:21 a.m. Eastern time, when the Sun crosses the plane of Earth’s equator heading south. Astronomically speaking, it’s the beginning of fall for the northern hemisphere and the beginning of spring for the southern hemisphere.

5 things you might look for in the sky this season:

1. Venus. Look for this very, very bright planet in the west after sunset. It’s currently (late September 2016) setting about 75 minutes after the Sun. By Halloween it’ll be setting 2 hours after sunset, and by Thanksgiving, nearly 3 hours after sunset.
 
2. A queen. To be fair, it takes a lot of imagination to see a queen in the stars. But 5 of the stars in the constellation Cassiopeia the Queen, found in the northern sky, do form a fairly decent letter W. If you picture the middle of the W as an arrow, you can use it to point your way to Polaris, the North Star.
 
3. Summer Triangle. Really, we ought to rename this pattern of 3 stars the Summer-and-Fall Triangle, because it’s well-placed in the evening sky into December. Look for this large triangle fairly high in the sky soon after sunset. If you have a dark sky, you’ll notice that the stars straddle the Milky Way.
 
4. Great Square of Pegasus. The constellation Pegasus the Winged Horse doesn’t look much like a flying horse unless you can imagine it flying upside down with the back part missing. But the 4 stars in the body form a pretty good square. You can spot it in the east soon after sunset.
 
5. A princess. Cassiopeia’s daughter, Andromeda the Princess, can be imagined as a skinny letter V attached to one corner of the Great Square, in a rather unfortunate location related to the rest of the horse.

Want to learn more about what’s up in the sky this fall—and see these constellations with the help of labels, lines, and pictures? 

  •  If you’re an adult or teen, please join us at Morehead for Starry Nights: Fall Skies on Wednesday, September 28, 2016, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Think of this live planetarium program as similar to our popular Carolina Skies program, but on steroids. 
  • If anyone in your party is 12 or under, then the program for you is Star Families: Fall Skies, on Saturday, October 1, 2016, from 3:30 to 4:15 p.m. This program is like a Carolina Skies that’s aimed at children ages 7 to 12 and their families.

To see these celestial wonders in the real sky, please join us at a skywatching session this fall. Upcoming skywatching sessions at Jordan Lake (at Ebenezer Church Recreation Area) include October 8, November 5, and December 3, 2016. We’ll be at Little River Regional Park on September 30, November 4 and December 2, 2016.