The arrival of September will signal the changing of the seasons around the globe. Not only will this bring a change in the weather but also the return of a pyramid of light in the night sky only seen around the time of the equinox.
Here are three astronomy events to mark on your calendar throughout September:
1. Harvest Moon
When: Sept. 13-14
Friday the 13th is commonly known by superstitious folk as an unlucky day. However, the full Harvest Moon rising in the evening may shine some luck down from the sky. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, in many cases, a full moon can bring good luck to those that are superstitious.
Regardless of your superstitions, the Harvest Moon will rise on the evening of Friday, Sept. 13, and glow brightly all night long before setting early on Saturday, Sept. 14.
The Harvest Moon is perhaps the most popular full moon of the entire year. Its name is derived from the time of year that farmers harvest their crops, giving people extra light to work well into the night after the light from the sun fades away.
“Unlike other full moon names, which are specific to their respective months, the Harvest Moon is tied to an astronomical event: the autumnal equinox,” the Old Farmer’s Almanac explained on their website.
2. September equinox
When: Sept. 23
The last full week of September will also be the first week of fall as the seasons turn.
Autumn officially begins at 3:50 a.m. EDT on Monday, Sept. 23, for the Northern Hemisphere, while areas south of the equator transition from winter to spring.
Although astronomical autumn begins in late September, meteorological autumn arrives with the changing of the calendar.
Astronomical seasons vary from year to year, ranging from 89 to 93 days, depending on the year. Meanwhile, meteorological seasons are more consistent with each season lasting three months. Meteorological fall consists of September, October and November.
3. The return of the aurora, Zodiacal light
When: Late September
In addition to signaling the start of fall for the Northern Hemisphere, it is also one of the only times of the year when stargazers can see a celestial object known as the Zodiacal light.
The Zodiacal light looks like a dim, glowing pyramid in the sky in the hours leading up to sunrise. Because of this, it is sometimes known as "false dawn." This pyramid of light is actually the sun’s light being reflected off of a disk of dust dispersed across the inner solar system.
The September equinox is also a good time to look for the Northern Lights.
“The Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis occur more frequently through the month of September than during the summer months,” AccuWeather Astronomy Blogger Dave Samuhel said.
“Auroras seem to be more active in the weeks surrounding the equinoxes,” he said. “It likely has to do with the fact that the sun’s energy (light) falls perpendicular to the magnetic poles during this time frame. It becomes more likely that the sun and the Earth’s magnetic field react and cause Auroras.”
Looking back at August
The Perseid meteor shower, considered the best meteor shower of the year, peaked in mid-August, but it was hindered by the nearly full moon. However, stargazers were still treated to a show with the brightest of the shooting stars shining bright despite the light from the moon.
Stargazers of all ages looked to the sky during the second weekend of August to see a celestial alignment as Jupiter, the moon and Saturn appeared near each other. This came just after NASA released a new high-definition image of Jupiter taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.
A doomed comet met its demise on Thursday, Aug. 15, when it fell into the sun. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory captured the comet’s final minutes.