Look up in September 2019! Skywatching tips from NASA

We are approaching the official beginning of fall! Now, I know that in Louisiana we don’t really experience distinct season changes because it’s usually just hot and humid year-round. But, the fall season is important, even if we don’t feel it too much.

September 23 marks the beginning of leaving behind long hot summer days and welcoming long starry nights. That’s because day and night become equal length after the fall equinox.

So, fall isn’t just all about haunted houses and pumpkin-flavored things. This time of year marks less daylight compared to the summer days. However, that just means more time to look up at the stars.

Friday the 13th Full Moon

It makes sense that Mother Nature teases us for the upcoming spooky season. On Friday the 13th, a full moon rolls over the night sky.

This isn’t just any regular full moon though. It’s a Harvest Moon which means it takes place nearest the autumnal equinox. Historically, this particular full bright moon allowed farmers to work later in the night thanks to the moon’s guiding light.

Oh, but there’s more.

This special Friday the 13th full Harvest Moon is also classified as a micromoon. It’s exactly what it sounds like — the moon will look smaller than most other full moons. The moon will be farthest away in its orbit from Earth.

So, I don’t know if it’s just me, but a micromoon makes the whole Friday the 13th full moon idea less intimidating now.

It’s still pretty cool all of these lunar occurrences are falling on the same day, though. A spooky moon like this won’t happen again until Aug. 13, 2049

chart showing moon phases and dates

The phases of the Moon for September. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Pretty moon crescents

Just because an interesting full moon is approaching, doesn’t mean we should forget about the crescent moons.

Because the new moon falls around the end of the month right now, the crescent moons peek out at dusk in the beginning of the month and at predawn at the end.

Preston Dyches from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory gives you the whole run down. Here’s what he had to say about September’s night sky:

This month, look low in the west about half an hour after sunset to enjoy the crescent moon on September 1st through the 4th, with the Moon appearing a bit higher in the sky each night. By the 5th, the first-quarter (that is, half-full) Moon winds up here, just a couple of degrees to the right of Jupiter.

At the end of the month, from September 23rd to the 27th, look east half an hour before dawn for an increasingly slimmer crescent, that appears lower in the sky each day.

Where is Mars?

Finally, say “bye-bye” to Mars. The Red Planet tucked away behind the Sun for a few weeks in an event called solar conjunction.

By the end of July, Mars slowly drifted into the Sun’s glare to completely disappear from our skies altogether. Because of that, mission controllers on Earth fall silent with communication to Mars’s spacecrafts. But don’t worry, NASA will say hello again to Mars in just a few weeks after the planet moves out from behind the Sun.