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September Evening Sky

New Moon is on the 4th with the first crescent becoming visible the following evening. To the Zulu people this would be called a ‘Green Moon’ or uNcwaba, since Ncwaba means “to bloom” as plants do in spring.

September is also the month when the Sun returns to the southern hemisphere. The Equinox (Latin for equal night) occurs on the 22nd. It is the time when the Sun passes from the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere. It is also the time when days are getting longer most quickly. The actual 12-hour day occurs on the 19th because of the size of the Sun and refraction (bending of light) of the Earth’s atmosphere. For many the equinox marks the beginning of spring, but it is the beginning of the southern summer half of the year which lasts 178.8 days. This is shorter than our winter half of the year of 186.4 days, the difference of just over a week is because the Earth’s orbit around the Sun is not circular, but slightly elliptical (egg-shaped). The Earth being closest to the Sun in our summer, and being closer means it moves faster and so our summers are shorter! What is also noticeable is that the Sun rises to the south of east and sets to the south of west from now on, so south facing walls will get some early morning and late afternoon sunlight.
This month has a spectacular celestial dance that lasts for most of the month. Starting just after sunset on the 6th, Mercury can be seen to the lower right of a thin crescent Moon in the west. Above this pair is another pair made up of the very bright Venus and the star Spica to the left and above this pair is the ringed planet Saturn. By the 8th the crescent Moon can be seen just below the pair of Venus and Spica and the following night the Moon will be very close to Saturn. By the 12th Saturn is high up in the west, followed by Venus, Spica and Mercury will be in an almost vertical line above the horizon, with Arcturus to the right.

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September Evening Sky