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Star Gazing - September 14, 2020


■ The Great Square of Pegasus is high in the east after dark, balancing on one corner.

From the Great Square's left corner extends a big line of three 2nd-magnitude stars, running to the lower
left, that mark the head, backbone and leg of the constellation Andromeda. (She's seen in profile. The
line of three includes the Square's left corner, her head.)

Upper left from the foot of this line, you'll find W-shaped Cassiopeia tilting up.


■ Jupiter's Great Red Spot should transit Jupiter's central meridian around 8:36 p.m. Eastern Daylight
Time. Just 11 minutes later, the tiny black shadow of Io starts to cross Jupiter's face, entering the
eastern limb. Then at 9:51 p.m. EDT, Io itself emerges from transit, budding off from Jupiter's western

■ Most variable stars for amateur telescopes take days to weeks to change brightness noticeably. But the
fastest eclipsing binary stars can change detectably in 10 minutes. A selection of such fast, deep eclipsers,
with finder charts, await you and your scope in Bob King's article Take a Roller Coaster Ride on a Fast
Eclipsing Binary.

Years ago, I would spend hours through a quiet night carefully noting the changing magnitude of some
such faint star for the AAVSO's Eclipsing Binary Section. I was using a homemade 6-inch reflector on my
parents' lawn with just my eye and an AAVSO comparison-star chart, having planned things out with a
list of eclipse predictions. The purpose was, and is, to track any slight drifts in the times of mid-eclipse
from the predicted times, indicating tiny changes in the stars' orbital period across months or years. Such
changes can reveal mass exchanges either steady or sudden; the influence of an unseen, third orbiting
companion; changes intrinsic to one of the stars, or other effects.

Nowadays amateurs do this with greater precision and reliability using electronic imaging. But for me, that
visual program was really what turned me into a serious amateur astronomer.


■ With the evenings moonless, this is a great week for the Milky Way under a dark sky. When Deneb
crosses your zenith (two hours after Vega; around 10 p.m. now), the Milky Way does too — running
straight up from the southwest horizon and straight down to the northeast horizon.


■ Jupiter's Great Red Spot should transit the planet's central meridian around 10:14 p.m. EDT.

■ New Moon (exact at 7:00 a.m. EDT).


■ You can see in the stars that the season is changing; we've reached the time of year when, just after
nightfall, Cassiopeia has already climbed a little higher in the northeast than the Big Dipper has sunk in
the northwest. Cas stands high in early evening during the chilly fall-winter half of the year. The Big Dipper
takes over for the milder evenings of spring and summer.

Almost midway between them stands Polaris. It's currently a little above the midpoint between the two.


■ Arcturus, the "Spring Star," shines a little lower in the west after dark every week as summer turns to
fall. (The September equinox is next Tuesday.) The narrow, kite-shaped pattern of Bootes extends 24°
upper right from Arcturus.
Starry, Starry Night . . .
"I know nothing of any certainty, but the sight of the stars
makes me dream." -Vincent Van Gogh
current night sky over Nashville, TN
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