September's Night Sky Will Bring Planet Sightings, a Supermoon, and More

This month also marks the return of the long-awaited aurora borealis season in the northern hemisphere.

<p>JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images</p>

JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

It’ll be tough to top last month’s two supermoons, but September has a host of night-sky fun in store. We have planet sightings, the year’s last supermoon, a potential comet sighting, and it’s one of the last months of the year to spot the Milky Way core, according to Photopills. It’s also the return of the long-awaited aurora borealis season in the northern hemisphere.

Speaking of the lights, September offers some of the best aurora-chasing odds. Historically, lights chasers can enjoy an uptick in aurora activity around the equinoxes, including this month’s fall equinox, according to Popular Science. This has to do with strong geomagnetic storms and the tilt of the Earth’s axis. With solar maximum — the roughly 11-year peak of auroral activity — nearing, the northern lights odds are increasingly in our favor. (Here are our favorite spots to chase them.)

Yet auroras aren’t the only spectacle September’s night sky has on offer. Block off the following nights and early mornings to experience the month’s top interstellar events.

Sept. 1-13: Comet Nishimura

For the first half of September, stargazers have a chance to see comet Nishimura near the east to northeast horizon, according to Sky and Telescope. For those in the lower 48 states, it will be visible just above the horizon. It will look like a “star-like blob with a signature tail,” according to The comet is expected to have a brightness of roughly 4 to 5 magnitude; it should be visible to the naked eye, but NASA reports that, given how unpredictable comets are, it’s guaranteed. Look for it around sunrise and sunset before Sept. 13.

Sept. 3: Moon and Jupiter Conjunction

Around 10:30 p.m. ET, the 73-percent-illuminated moon and bright Jupiter will rise in tandem near the eastern horizon, according to stargazing app Starwalk. You can see the duo with your naked eye — and they’re not the only planets shining in the sky this night. Look halfway up the sky from the southeast horizon to see pale-yellow Saturn, which is visible to the naked eye. Venus will hover to the east of it, but you’ll need tools like stargazing binoculars or a telescope to see it.

Sept. 18-19: Neptune at Opposition

If Neptune’s on your 2023 planet-sighting bucket list, bookmark Sept. 19. The blue giant planet will reach opposition — when Earth lies directly between the planet at the sun — on Sept. 19 at 7 a.m. ET (11 UTC), according to Your best odds of spotting it are overnight into the morning from Sept. 18 to 19 in a dark-sky location. It will rise from the eastern horizon around sunset; you can spot it near the Pisces constellation.

Sept. 22: Mercury at Greatest Morning Elongation

On the morning of Sept. 22, Mercury will reach its greatest morning elongation — one of the best times to view the fast-moving planet. It will occur around 9 a.m. ET, but you can watch the brighter-than-normal planet just before sunrise, according to It will continue to stay bright and visible through September. Head out before sunrise, around 6 a.m. ET, to see Mercury rising in the east with Venus above it.

Sept. 23: Fall Equinox

Sept. 23 marks fall in the northern hemisphere. Autumn begins at 2:50 a.m. ET, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. The first day of fall brings a host of excitement — and we’re not just talking pumpkin spice lattes. Cultures around the world celebrate the equinox, from the Stonehenge sunrise celebrations in the UK to Mexico’s Chichen Itza, where visitors can learn about the equinox’s importance to Mayan culture.

Sept. 28-29 Super Harvest moon

In case you didn’t get your supermoon fill in August, September has one last larger-than-average moon left: the super harvest moon. In the early hours of Sept. 29, the full moon will reach its peak size and brightness. Around sunset on Sept. 28 is your best chance of watching it in all its glory, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. This month’s spectacle is not only a supermoon, but a harvest moon — the name for the moon that’s closest to the fall equinox.

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