This month: African eclipse, minor meteor showers, moon near Neptune


What's Up for September? An annular eclipse in Africa, 2 minor meteor showers, and planet and moon pair-ups.

Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

We won't have a total solar eclipse in the U.S. until August 21, 2017. But observers in central Africa will see an annular eclipse September 1 of this year. This is where the moon covers most-but not all-of the sun. In this eclipse, the moon will block only 98.7 percent of the sun. Observers always need to use safe solar eclipse glasses or filters on telescopes, binoculars and cameras.

It's not too soon to begin making plans for the 2017 total solar eclipse. It will span the US -- from Oregon to South Carolina. We'll talk more about it as the date gets closer.

If the August Perseids whetted your appetite for meteor observing, there are two minor meteor showers in September, both with about 5 swift and bright meteors per hour at their peak-which will be near dawn. The Aurigid shower is on September 1st. The new moon on the first means the sky will be nice and dark for the Aurigids. The second shower is the Epsilon Perseids on the 9th. The radiant is not too far from the location of last month's Perseids. The first quarter moon sets on the 9th at midnight, just in time for the best viewing of the Perseids.

There are many nice pair-ups between the moon and planets this month. You can see the moon between Venus and Jupiter on the 2nd, and above Venus on the 3rd, right after sunset low on the West-Southwest horizon. On the 15th the nearly full moon pairs up with Neptune, two weeks after its opposition, when the 8th planet is closest to Earth in its orbit around the sun. The moonlight may wash out the planet view, but try anyway. You may spot magnitude 7.8 Neptune in binoculars, but a telescope will show the disk and some color. The ice giant's color appears a subtle bluish-grey to the eye. Neptune is visible all night long, rising in the east and setting in the west at dawn.

You can catch up on current missions and space telescopes studying our Milky Way and beyond at That's all for this month, I'm Jane Houston Jones.

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