Sky at a Glance 2020 September 19 – 26

Photo showing location of the small Lacerta the Lizard constellation between Cassiopeia and Cygnus.

This Week’s Sky at a Glance, 2020 September 19 – 26 ~by Curt Nason

Salamanders aren’t the most noticeable of critters; you usually have to make an effort to find one. This is a good time to locate the obscure constellation of Lacerta the Lizard, but it will take some effort and a dark sky.

Camouflaged partly by the Milky Way, Lacerta is surrounded by Cepheus, Cassiopeia, Pegasus and Cygnus. A good pointer to it is the base of the Summer Triangle. Running a line from bright Vega to Deneb at the tail of Cygnus and extending it about the same distance puts you near the zigzag shape of the lizard. It is one of those dim constellations created in the late 17th century by Johannes Hevelius to fill in an “empty” section of the sky. At first he named it Stellio; a stellion is a newt with star-like spots found near the Mediterranean Sea. If you manage to catch Lacerta, give yourself a pat on the back and let it go.

This Week in the Solar System

Saturday’s sunrise in Moncton is at 7:02 am and sunset will occur at 7:21 pm, giving 12 hours, 19 minutes of daylight (7:08 am and 7:26 pm in Saint John). Next Saturday the Sun will rise at 7:11 am and set at 7:07 pm, giving 11 hours, 56 minutes of daylight (7:16 am and 7:13 pm in Saint John). The Sun crosses the equator, migrating southward for winter, at 10:31 am on Tuesday. Autumn is in the air.

The Moon is at first quarter on Wednesday, then sliding below Jupiter and Saturn over the next two evenings. Telescope users might catch Jupiter’s stormy Red Spot around 9 pm Sunday and 10:30 pm on Tuesday. Mars rises around 8:30 pm, when Jupiter and Saturn are at their highest in the south. Mercury is very close to Spica on Tuesday, setting 40 minutes after the Sun, but the shallow angle of ecliptic makes them a difficult target in binoculars. Venus rises around 3:30 am, perhaps seen amid the zodiacal light between 5:30 and 6 if you have a clear dark sky.

With astronomy meetings and outreach activities on hold, you can watch the local Sunday Night Astronomy Show at 8 pm and view archived shows.

Questions? Contact Curt Nason.

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