September 2014

The Rival of Mars

The September Equinox occurs at 9:29 am CDT on September 22. This marks the beginning of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere, while it’s the first day of spring south of the equator.

Even with the change of seasons you can easily find the three stars of the Summer Triangle high overhead after sunset. Watch as the sky begins to darken -- they may be the first stars you see.

Mars begins September as a pale orange dot in the faint constellation of Libra the scales. As the weeks pass, Mars races eastward against the background stars, from Libra through Ophiuchus the serpent bearer, into Scorpius the scorpion.

Watch Mars around the end of the month to see how it stacks up against its rival, Antares, the red star that marks the heart of Scorpius. Antares was named by early Greek astronomers who noticed its similarities to Mars in brightness and color. Anti- means 'rival of', and Ares is the Greek name for the Roman god of war, Mars. The name Antares is a convenient reminder that this star is not Mars.

On the evening of September 26, keen observers with a clear sky and unobstructed view will want to look for the thin crescent Moon about 14 degrees above the western horizon at sunset.

On the evening of September 27, the Moon will appear very close to ringed planet Saturn, hanging about 20 degrees above the west-southwestern horizon in the glow of twilight.

Saturn, Mars, and the “anti-Mars” will all set before 10 pm. You’ll have to get up early in the morning to see any more planets. Jupiter rises after 3 am, shining high in the east as dawn breaks. Look for the thin crescent Moon next to Jupiter on the morning of September 20.

October Lunar Eclipse

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

  • Partial eclipse begins: 4:15 am CDT
  • Total eclipse begins: 5:25 am
  • Total eclipse ends: 6:24 am
  • Partial eclipse ends: 7:34 am

Early risers with clear skies will get to enjoy a total lunar eclipse in early October.

When the visible partial phase of the eclipse begins at 4:15 am, the Moon will be 30 degrees above the western horizon. That’s one-third the distance from the horizon to the zenith, the point in the sky directly above your head.

At 5:25 am, the full Moon will have moved completely into Earth’s dark shadow at which time the lunar disk should take on a color ranging from pale orange to dark brown/almost black. You’ll need a clear view with nothing in the way because the Moon will have dropped to just 16 degrees above the western horizon and continue getting lower.

As the Moon begins to exit totality at 6:24 am, it will be only 5 degrees above the horizon and very difficult to see at all.

On September 28, 2015, we’ll finally get a lunar eclipse at a convenient time, starting just after 8 pm and reaching totality shortly before 10 pm. Mark your calendar, and hope for clear weather.

September Star Parties

There will be two free public star parties in September, weather permitting. The first is set for Saturday, September 13, from 8:00 to 10:00 pm at the Long Hunter State Park Visitor Center. The next event is Friday, September 26, at Bowie Nature Park in Fairview from 7:30 to 9:30 pm.

Members of the Barnard-Seyfert Astronomical Society will set up their telescopes so everyone who attends can get a great view of Saturn, the Hercules star cluster, and more. Star parties are great fun for all ages.

Star parties are weather dependent and may be cancelled. Visit our web site for updates before making the trip, especially if the weather is iffy. The web site also features star party tips, driving directions, and a calendar of future events.

Second Saturdays at Sudekum

On the Second Saturday of each month, the Sudekum Planetarium presents evening programs suitable for the family. Each month offers a variety of educational and not-so-educational experiences.

On September 13, our exploration of space starts at 6:30 pm with Dawn of the Space Age. From Sputnik to the Space Shuttle and beyond, witness the drive and determination of the men and women who dare to explore.

At 7:30 pm, sample a variety of immersive art experiences during Home Grown Dome, in this compilation of short works by students, artists and animators from across the country. Home Grown Dome is being presented September 13 and 14 in conjunction with the Nashville Mini Maker Faire.

The next three programs are commonly called laser shows but also feature fulldome digital effects and millions of stars choreographed to music.

The party gets started at 8:30 pm with Pink and Pop Till You Drop with tunes from Justin Bieber, N’Sync, Joan Jett, Michael Jackson, and other pop music favorites from across the decades.

You don’t have to be able to dance to enjoy the 9:30 pm Cosmic Concert featuring a few of Michael Jackson’s musical masterpieces. Practice your ABCs, brave the Thriller, and admire the Man in the Mirror in this tribute to a legendary performer.

Look up U2 in an encyclopedia, and you’ll find a spy plane, clothing, and chromosomes. Look a little deeper, and you’ll learn Bono, The Edge, and the rest of U2 provided a soundtrack for the 1980s and 90s. The Classic U2 in this 10:30 pm show features the pounding rhythms of these Irish rock legends.

Dome Club Opens in October

What happens when you let art and music loose in the immersive fulldome planetarium environment? Experience Dome Club in the Sudekum Planetarium from 7:30 to 8:45 pm on the third Thursday of each month (except December) beginning on October 16.

Dome Club kicks off with Home Grown Dome, a 45 minute compilation of fourteen short works created by students, artists and animators from across the country. These pieces were finalists from the annual DomeFest fulldome film festivals between 2004-2009.