The Eagle has landed in our September skies

M16, the Eagle Nebula, includes the stunning Pillars of Creation and Stellar Spire. Photo by MPAS member Nick Axaris

This month, be sure to enjoy the sights of Scorpius, Sagittarius, and Scutum before they disappear below the horizon. The most spectacular objects to look out for in these constellations include M8, the Lagoon Nebula; the open clusters M6 and M7; and the globular cluster M22.

There are a few interesting targets in the sky at the moment in Aquarius. The globular cluster M2 appears as a fuzzy star through binoculars and is near the star Beta Aquarii. And the planetary nebula NGC 7293, the Helix Nebula, appears as a faint fuzzy disc through a small telescope. Another globular cluster, M15 in Pegasus, is thought to be 13.2 billion years old and can be picked out with binoculars, while a small telescope shows it clearly.

With dark skies and a relatively large telescope you can spot M16, the beautiful Eagle Nebula in the constellation Serpens. This nebula is located 7000 light-years from Earth and spans 70 by 55 light-years. It is home to several famous cosmic structures, including the stunning Pillars of Creation, which stretch roughly four to five light-years, and Stellar Spire, approximately 9.5 light-years or 90 trillion kilometres high.

The globular cluster 47 Tucanae is a must-see target in the September southern skies, lying to the south of the constellation Tucana. It is visible to the naked eye as a hazy star, while a small telescope shows its bright centre and many of its glittering stars. This cluster is 15,000 light-years away.

On September 22, the Earth is at Equinox, which is when the Sun shines directly on the equator and the length of day and night are nearly equal. September 24 will see the variable star Mira at its brightest, and on September 25 the waxing moon and Jupiter form a triangle with Saturn.

By Nerida Langcake
This article appeared in the September 2020 issue of the Mornington Peninsula Magazine.