May 21, 2018
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Taurus the Bull highly regarded in ancient times

Contributed | BDN
Contributed | BDN
By Clair Wood, Special to the BDN

On Sept. 28, the moon is very near the bright, orange-colored star of Aldebaran, the “red eye of Taurus the Bull.” Taurus is an ancient constellation, one author even says the first one, and was held in high regard by the ancients because the vernal or spring equinox occurred in it from about 4000 B.C. to 1700 B.C. It is the sec-ond sign of the zodiac. Greek mythology has it that Taurus was the form taken by the god Zeus when he wooed the beautiful Phoenician princess Europa. Aldebaran is a giant star about 45 times the diameter of our sun. If it replaced the sun, it would stretch halfway to the orbit of Mercury and Earth would simply be a charred cinder.

Focus on the Planets

All of the planets, with the exception of Mercury, grace the evening sky while Jupiter remains in view all night long.

Mercury offers its best dawn viewing of the year starting around midmonth. Look for Mercury about a half-hour before sunrise low in the east where it will remain for the remainder of the month.

Venus shines low in the southwest at sunset. On Sept. 1, Venus is joined by the bright star Spica and faint Mars to its upper right.

Mars is to the upper right of Venus but is so distant and dim that no details can be seen even with a telescope. This will not improve until next year.

Jupiter is at peak visibility for the year and at its closest approach to Earth in nearly a half century. All of Jupiter’s surface features, zones and belts will be visible through a telescope. One interesting note is that a major band, the South Equatorial Band, mysteriously disappeared earlier this year and no one knows exactly why. Jupiter’s four moons dance about the planet and, on Sept. 24, all are lined up on one side.

Saturn starts the month low in the west, and far to the right of Venus, and sets an hour after sunset. Saturn will disappear from view a little over a week into the month.

Uranus is just to the north of Jupiter and will show up as a bluish-green disk in the same binocular field as Jupiter.

Neptune will appear in the south during the late evening hours and can be spotted in Capricornus as a faint blue-gray dot.

September Events

1 Sunrise, 5:57 a.m.; sunset, 7:13 p.m. Moon in last quarter, 1:22 p.m. Venus, Spica and Mars form a short diagonal line in the southwest at night fall. Saturn lies far to the trio’s lower right.

8 Moon at perigee or closest approach to Earth. New moon, 6:29 a.m. The combination of these two events could lead to abnormally high tides.

10 Venus, Mars, Spica and the thin crescent moon are all grouped together in the west shortly after sunset.

13 Antares is the orange star just to the left of the moon an hour after sunset.

15 Moon in first quarter, 1:49 a.m.

16 Mercury is low in the east about an hour before sunrise with the bright star Regulus just above.

18 The sun enters Virgo on the ecliptic. Jupiter and Uranus are within a degree of each other in the east.

21 The moon is at apogee or farthest distance from Earth. Both Jupiter and Uranus are at opposition and move from the morning into the evening sky.

23 Fall or autumn equinox, 11:13 p.m. The sun crosses the equator into the southern hemisphere. The sun enters the astrological sign of Libra but astronomically still is in Virgo. Full moon, 5:18 a.m. As the full moon nearest the fall equinox, the full moon of September this year is the harvest moon.

28 Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus, shines near the moon tonight.

30 Sunrise 6:31 a.m.; sunset 6:18 p.m.

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