Star Watch

The WCSU Planetarium and Observatory are open twice per month (Saturdays) during the WCSU fall semester. The  facility is located on the WCSU Westside Campus, atop the hill between the Campus Center and the Pinney Hall dormitory; the entrance road faces the front of Pinney Hall. Parking is available but very limited around the facility; more may be found on University Boulevard.

Public Nights may be cancelled due to severe weather and/or dangerous road conditions. For updates, call 203- 837-8672 on the day of an event. Sky viewing cannot be held in cloudy or precipitating weather, but planetarium shows are usually held.

Planetarium shows are appropriate for adults and older children, but generally not for infants or toddlers.

NIGHTLY SKY CALENDAR

*, !, !! – interesting to very interesting celestial event
E –  calendar or geometry- related event (such as an equinox)

Day Date Note Description
Tue Sept. 5 * The planet Neptune, in Aquarius, reaches opposition to the Sun, rising in the ESE around sunset and visible in Aquarius all night. At magnitude + 7.8, Neptune needs binoculars or a telescope to see it.
Wed 6 FULL Corn MOON
Sun 10 *, predawn Mercury passes near the moderately bright star Regulus; look E around the start of morning twilight.
Tue 12 !, predawn Mercury reaches greatest western elongation 18 degrees from the Sun; look E around the start of morning twilight. In a telescope, Mercury will resemble a tiny Last Quarter Moon at this time. The first three weeks of September are a favorable appearance of Mercury for Northern Hemisphere observers.
Wed 13 Last Quarter Moon. The Moon reaches perigee at 369,860 km (229,820 miles) from Earth’s center.
Sat 16 *, predawn Mercury (magnitude – 0.6) passes very near dimmer Mars (magnitude + 1.8). Look E around the start of morning twilight.
Sat 16 ! Free Public Night at the WCSU Planetarium and Observatory. Planetarium show: 7 to 8 p.m. Using the 20-inch telescope (if skies are clear) for sky viewing: 8 to 10 p.m. Objects that may be observed include Saturn, M13, Epsilon Lyrae, the Ring Nebula, Albireo, M11, M15, M2 and Neptune.
Mon 18 !!, predawn The waning crescent Moon passes through a grouping of planets and a bright star: Venus (magnitude – 3.9), Regulus (magnitude + 1.4), Mars (magnitude + 1.8) and Mercury (magnitude – 0.9). Look E to ESE.
Wed 20 New Moon
Fri 22 E The autumnal equinox (Sun crossing the celestial equator moving southward) occurs at 4:02 p.m.
Wed 27 First Quarter Moon. The Moon reaches apogee at 404,348 km (251,250 miles) from Earth’s center.
Sat 30 ! Free Public Night at the WCSU Planetarium and Observatory. Planetarium show: 7 to 8 p.m. Using the 20-inch telescope (if skies are clear) for sky viewing: 8 to 10 p.m. Objects that may be observed include Saturn, M13, the waxing gibbous Moon, the Ring Nebula, Epsilon Lyrae, Albireo, M11, M15, M2, Neptune and the Andromeda galaxy (M31).
Wed-Fri Oct. 4-6 !, predawn Venus (magnitude – 3.9) passes very near Mars (magnitude + 1.8). Look low in the east around the start of morning twilight.
Thu 5 FULL Harvest MOON
Mon 9 The Moon reaches perigee at 366,855 km (227,953 miles) from Earth’s center.
Thu 12 Last Quarter Moon
Sat 14 ! Free Public Night at the WCSU Planetarium and Observatory. Planetarium show: 6 to 7 p.m. Using the 20-inch telescope (if skies are clear) for sky viewing: 7 to 9 p.m. Objects that may be observed include the Ring Nebula, Albireo, M11, M15, M2, Neptune and the Andromeda galaxy.
Sun 15 !, predawn The waning crescent Moon will OCCULT (pass in front of) the bright star Regulus. From Danbury, the estimated times are 5:51 a.m. EDT (star disappears behind Moon’s bright edge) to 6:45 a.m. EDT (star reappears from Moon’s dark edge).
Thu 19 * The planet Uranus, in Pisces, reaches opposition to the Sun, rising in the ENE around sunset and visible in Pisces all night. At magnitude + 5.7, Uranus (when observed from a dark location) is barely visible to the naked eye; using binoculars or a telescope to see it is a better option.
Thu 19 New Moon
Fri-Sat 20-21 ! Moonlight should not interfere with viewing of meteors in the Orionid meteor shower. The radiant from which meteors appear to come is toward the northeastern corner of Orion. The most numerous meteors should be seen between late evening on the 20th through the predawn hours on the 21st. From an otherwise dark location, an observer might expect to see around a dozen fast meteors per hour.
Tue 24 The Moon reaches apogee at 405,154 km (251,751 miles) from Earth’s center.
Fri 27 First Quarter Moon
Sat 28 ! Free Public Night at the WCSU Planetarium and Observatory. Planetarium show: 6 to 7 p.m. Using the 20-inch telescope (if skies are clear) for sky viewing: 7 to 9 p.m. Objects that may be observed include the Moon near First Quarter, M15, M2, Neptune, Uranus, M31, and the Perseus double cluster.
Sat Nov. 4 FULL Beaver MOON
Sun 5 E Eastern Standard Time resumes at 2 a.m.; turn your clocks back one hour.
Sun 5 The Moon reaches perigee at 361,438 km (224,587 miles) from Earth’s center.
Fri 10 Last Quarter Moon
Sat 11 ! Free Public Night at the WCSU Planetarium and Observatory. Planetarium show: 5 to 6 p.m. Using the 20-inch telescope (if skies are clear) for sky viewing: 6 to 8 p.m. Objects that may be observed include Albireo, M15, M2, Neptune, Uranus, M31, Cassiopeia clusters and the Perseus double cluster.
Fri 17 * Moonlight should not interfere with viewing of meteors in the Leonid meteor shower. The radiant from which meteors appear to come is toward constellation of Leo, which rises from the east around midnight; best meteor viewing is in the predawn hours of the 17th. From an otherwise dark location, an observer might expect to see around a dozen very fast meteors per hour.
Sat 18 New Moon
Sat 18 ! Free Public Night at the WCSU Planetarium and Observatory. Planetarium show: 5 to 6 p.m. Using the 20-inch telescope (if skies are clear) for sky viewing: 6 to 8 p.m. Objects that may be observed include M15, M2, Neptune, Uranus, M31, Cassiopeia clusters, the Perseus double cluster and the Pleiades.
Tue 21 The Moon reaches apogee at 406,132 km (252,358 miles) from Earth’s center.
Thu 23 Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation, 22 degrees from the Sun; look WSW during evening twilight. In a telescope, Mercury will resemble a tiny First Quarter Moon at this time. The last few weeks of November represent a favorable evening appearance of Mercury.
Sun 26 First Quarter Moon
Sat Dec. 2 ! Free Public Night at the WCSU Planetarium and Observatory. Planetarium show: 5 to 6 p.m. Using the 20-inch telescope (if skies are clear) for sky viewing: 6 to 8 p.m. Objects that may be observed include the waxing gibbous Moon, Neptune, Uranus, the Perseus double cluster and the Pleiades.
Sun 3 FULL Cold MOON (largest in 2017)
Mon 4 The Moon reaches perigee at 357,492 km (222,135 miles) from Earth’s center. Expect larger ocean tides.
Sun 10 Last Quarter Moon
Wed-Thu 13-14 !! Moonlight should not interfere with viewing of meteors in the Geminid meteor shower. The radiant from which meteors appear to come is in Gemini, above and somewhat east of Orion. The most numerous meteors should be seen between 9 p.m. on the 13th and 3 a.m. on the 14th. From an otherwise dark location, an observer might expect to see 40 to 50 moderately slow meteors per hour.
Sat 16 ! Free Public Night at the WCSU Planetarium and Observatory. Planetarium show: 5 to 6 p.m. Using the 20-inch telescope (if skies are clear) for sky viewing: 6 to 8 p.m. Objects that may be observed include Neptune, Uranus, the Perseus double cluster and the Pleiades.
Mon 18 New Moon. The Moon reaches apogee at 406,603 km (252,651 miles) from Earth’s center.
Thu 21 E The winter solstice (Sun farthest south) occurs at 11:28 a.m.
Tue 26 First Quarter Moon

 

PLANET INFORMATION                                                                                              

MERCURY – is in the eastern predawn sky during September, reaching greatest western elongation on the 12th. It is poorly placed for observing during October but reappears in the western sky after sunset during November. Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation on November 23, then slips back into the Sun’s glare during December.

VENUS – gradually drops lower in the eastern dawn sky from September through November. It vanishes into the Sun’s glare during December.

MARS – moves from Leo through Virgo and into Libra during the September through December time period, gradually increasing in visibility in the eastern to southeastern predawn sky.

JUPITER – is low in the SW sunset sky during September, but it is too close to the Sun to be seen during October and most of November. It reappears in the SE predawn sky in late November and is increasingly visible there during December.

SATURN – is low in the southeastern to evening sky during September and October, but it vanishes into the Sun’s glare during November and is too close to the Sun to be seen during the last month of 2017.

Star Watch is a service provided by the Earth and Planetary Sciences program at Western Connecticut State University. Thanks for connecting!