What's Up in Space
Download this months Star Chart.
This weekend’s night sky (6-7 September)
The bright stars Vega (Whanui) and Canopus (Atutahi/Autahi) mark north - south around dusk guiding our eye to the bright band of the Milky Way passing high overhead. Sitting aside from the Milky Way, above Canopus, are the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. These are neighbouring galaxies to our own and can be seen as faint misty glows on a dark moonless night.
A little later in the evening, Vega can be seen forming part of the “winter triangle” in our northern sky along with Altair above and Deneb, which is found eastwards along the horizon. Deneb forms the tail of Cygnus the swan with his body stretching out into the middle of this triangle of stars. Marking the swan’s head is Albireo, the beak star. This is in fact a double star and a wonderful sight in a small telescope because of the easily seen contrast in colour between blue and gold components.
Next week look out for the last of three perigee full moons on 9 September. Often known as a “supermoon”, this is when the Moon’s full phase coincides with the closest point in its orbit around Earth, appearing slightly larger and brighter in the sky. Whilst the full Moon occurs at around lunchtime on Tuesday, the best time for us to observe it is probably on the night of 8 September, near to the actual time of the Moon’s closest approach.