In the Sky this Month for SWFL.
If you are new to the night sky, and have an Android device, such as a tablet or phone, you can find a free app in the Google Play Store, called Sky Map. Sky Map will help you locate objects in the night sky.
In the Sky this Month
Rise & set times of planets are in local time for Ft. Myers, FL, (26.6°N, 81.9°W).
NOTE: Standard Time starts on November 1st.
Sunrise: 1st 6:58 am (114°ESE). Sunset: 5:34 pm (246°WSW)
Sunrise: 31st 7:15 am (116°ESE). Sunset: 5:45 pm (245°WSW)
September starts with 11 hours, 7 minutes of daylight and ends with 10 hours, 36 minutes.
Information is from above as well as Sky & Telescope and Astronomy Magazine and SkyMania.com.
Night sky simulations, such as on https://www.timeanddate.com (select Night Sky) are helpful
for planning planetary observations relative to constellations and other night sky events(Beta).
Moon: Last Quarter – 8th; Perigee – 12th; New – 14th; First Quarter – 21st; Apogee – 24th;Full–30th.
On the 1st, it sets at 8:01 a.m. (296°W), and rises at 6:42 p.m. (112°E). On the 31st, set time is 8:35 a.m. (297°WSW), and rise time is 7:19 p.m. (64°ENE).
Mercury: (starts in Libra and moves to Sagittarius this month). On the 1 st , at -0.7 magnitude and 4.91” wide, it rises at 6:14 a.m. ½ hour before sunrise (Az, 112°ESE), then sets at 4:52 p.m. (248°WSW). By the end of December, at a brightness of -0.9 and 4.83” wide, it rises before the Sun at 7:52 a.m. (117.6°E). About 15-20 minutes before sunset, it sets at 6:08 p.m. (242.5°W).
Venus: (dawn, starts in Libra, then moves to Ophiuchus this month) On the 1st, it rises at 4:53 a.m. at 105.5°E, (RA, Decl=14h40m3.4s, -13°51’15”) and sets at 3:56 p.m. (254°W) (RA, Decl=14h42m17.5s, -14°2’10”). Its brightness is at -3.9 to -3.8 for the month, and changes from about 11.6” to 10.7” wide. On the 31st, it rises at 5:48 am (115°E) and sets at 4:13 pm (245°W).
Mars (all night, in Pisces all month) The Earth – Mars orbital relationship shows the Earth quickly moving ahead in its inside track. Mars dims in December from magnitude of about -1.1 and 14.6” wide to -0.3 and 10.5” wide. On the 1st, it rises at 2:33 p.m. and sets the next morning at 3:00 a.m. (Az~278°W) (RA, Decl=1h2m49.9s, 6°42’6”). On the 31st, it rises at 1:01 p.m., and sets at 1:48 a.m. January 1, 2021 (Az~283°W) (RA, Decl=1h 39m39.3s, 11°17’20”). S&T’s Mars Profiler tool, https://is.gd./marsprofiler , shows the viewable Martian face by date and time.
Jupiter: (dusk until early/mid-evening, Southwest, starting in Sagittarius and moving to Capricornus on the 15th). It starts the month with a diameter of 34.4” and ends at almost 33”. Jupiter and Saturn start the month setting ~3½ hours after sunset and end it setting ~1¾ hours after sunset. On the 1st, it rises at 10:21 a.m. and sets that night at 8:49 p.m. at Az=246° (RA, Decl=19h52m40.1s, -21°23’18”). On the 31st, it rises just after 8:47 a.m. and sets that night at 7:21 p.m. (247°, Az) (RA, Decl=20h19m34.9s, -20°4’34”). Its brightness starts the month at -1.9 and increases slightly to -1.8 by month’s end. Jupiter and Saturn will be <1° apart during December, having their first conjunction in 20 years, and the closest conjunction since 1623.
They are only 0.1° apart (6’ arc) on December 21st, and are at their closest viewable separation in 800 years, a rare treat.
Saturn: (dusk until early/mid-evening, Southwest, starting in Sagittarius and moving to Capricornus on the 18th). Saturn’s brightness for the month is fairly constant at 0.6. Its disk size decreases slightly from 15.65” to 15¼” this month. On the 1st it rises at 10:29 a.m. and sets at 8:59 p.m. (246.5°, Az) (RA, Decl=20 h1 m36.4s, -20°52’11”) that night just minutes and ½ ° Az after Jupiter. On the 31st, it rises at 8:43 a.m. and sets around 7:16 p.m. (247°, Az) (RA, Decl=20h14m40.0s, 13°15’42”).
Saturn’s rings span 35”, a little more than Jupiter’s width of 33”, almost doubling
Saturn’s apparent size. On the 16th – 18th within an hour after sunset, Saturn, Jupiter are between the crescent Moon positions looking SSW, just below Capricornus.
Saturn and Jupiter appear again within an hour after sunset on the 21st, minus the Moon just below Capricornus.
Uranus: (all night, in Aries) At the beginning of December, it rises, at 3:35 p.m. and sets at 4:32 a.m. (Az=285.5°WNW) (RA, Decl=2h19m57.3s, 13°28’9”) on the 2nd. It appears only 3.65” wide and a 5.7 brightness this month. On the 31st, it rises at 1:35 p.m. and sets at 2:31 a.m. (Az=285.5°WNW) (RA, Decl=2h17m19.1s,13°15’39”) on January 1, 2021. A finder chart is in the October issue of Sky & Telescope.
Neptune: (evening to midnight, in Aquarius) On the 1st, it rises at 1:12 p.m., and sets about 12:51 a.m. (Az=264°WSW) (RA, Decl=2h19m57.3s, 13°28’9”) on the 2nd. On the 31st, it rises at 11:15 a.m. and sets that night at 10:50 p.m., 264°Az, (RA, Decl=23h18m15.4s, -5°39’52”). A finder chart is in the September issue of Sky & Telescope.
International Space Station:
Hubble Space Telescope: will be visible on December 1-14 (early evening), and from the 23rd – 31st (predawn). Brightness magnitudes range from +0.7 – +3.8. See this link for specific times and routes for the HST: http://www.heavens-above.com
Comets and Asteroids: See this link for specific times and routes for brightest observable comets and asteroids: http://www.heavens-above.com. Links to finder charts are also available.
Comet C/2019 M3 ATLAS is about 8 ½ brightness, at >19° altitude in the Southwest (223°Az) in Piscis Austrinus. Comet 88P Howell, in Capricornus, has a brightness of 10.1, dimmer than last month, and Alt, Az of 7.5°, 240° WSW. The dim bulb of the group this month is C/2019 U6 at 15.5, in Hercules on the horizon at 296° WNW.