Your Night Sky for Sept. 2, 2020


Vega

Since the full moon was Sept. 2, the sky will be bright for a few more nights. But in a few days the moon will start to rise later giving us a dark sky for evening viewing. We just need to get rid of the evening clouds and the smoke haze, so we can see things. I still haven't been able to take out my telescope, although I don't mind the clouds if it actually rains since we're in such a drought.

The Moon and Mars will meet upon Sept. 4, 5 and 6th. They will rise in the east a few hours after Sunset. Mars is brightening up this month, and by the end of September it will be as bright as Jupiter. Then by mid-October, it will be brighter than Jupiter. Interestingly Mars will begin retrograding on the ninth when it reverses its course and begins to move to the left.

Amazingly the bright star Vega used to be our North Star. It's the fifth brightest star in our sky, and currently is overhead just next to the Milky Way. It’s part of the Summer Triangle, and the other stars Deneb and Altair are in front of the Milky Way. It's been 14,000 years since it was our North Star, but eventually will become it again.

Vega is part of the constellation Lyra the Harp. It's the harp of Orpheus who the Greeks said was the best musician who ever walked Earth. The constellation is small, but easy to find. The four fainter starts form a parallelogram-shape that hangs off Vega and makes the harp. Obviously Vega is its alpha star since it's so bright

Just next to Lyra and the Milky Way is the Ring Nebula M-57, and it's the most famous planetary nebula in our sky. It's a delicate shell of gas cast off by a dying star. At 2,000 LY away it shines at magnitude 8.8. Although you should be able to see it next to Lyra's bottom, binoculars will show you more of it.

Vega sparkles like a blue-white jewel! It's a giant star that burns well over 16,800 degrees F on its surface, making it much hotter than our Sun. It's one of the closest stars at only 25 LY from us. Earth is actually moving in the direction of Vega at 12 miles per second, but it will take over 500 million years for us to get close to it.

Earth actually wobbles, but it takes 26,000 years for it to make a single wobble, so that's why the North Star changes. Today our North Pole points to Polaris, but in another 12,000 years Vega will once again be our North Star. Currently Vega is the second brightest star in our sky and will be very easy to find. It's 37 times more luminous than our Sun. Just look up high next to the Milky Way.

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