Mon-Fri 9am-5pm
Saturday 9am-6pm
Sunday 11am-6pm
Tonight's Sky - Kirkpatrick Planetarium at Science Museum Oklahoma
Tonight's Sky - Kirkpatrick Planetarium at Science Museum Oklahoma

Red Dirt Astronomy

Whether your passion is for the Red Dirt of Oklahoma or that of the Red Planet

Here's your guide to the stars this month!

Explore the night sky each month with Kirkpatrick Planetarium Director Tom Arnold! Each month Tom will provide a sky chart, created using Digistar Technology, and a viewing guide with labeled constellations that are visible from inside Oklahoma City. You’ll be able to locate which prominent stars and planets are located in the evening sky and learn about the month’s astronomical events.
 
Tom has had a life-long passion for the night sky, with his early fascination leading to a professional career in astronomy. Whether you consider yourself an astronomer or not, we hope that by exploring Oklahoma’s night sky and learning how to identify stars and constellations, you find a similar sense of wonder. Below you will find information to discover our universe, just by looking up. 
 
Join Tom and our other planetarium educators for live planetarium shows daily!

To use the monthly star chart, hold the chart overhead, with the chart’s north marker pointing north.

Download the chart!

Photo of The Milky Way

The Sky in September

Tues. 7th New Moon
Fri. 10th Venus appears just south of the Moon
Mon. 13th First Quarter Moon
Tues. 14th Neptune at opposition (closest to Earth)
Fri. 17th Saturn north of the Moon
Sat. 18th Jupiter north of the Moon
Wed. 21st Autumn Equinox
Fri. 24th Uranus slightly north of the Moon
Wed. 29th Last Quarter Moon

 

 

 

Saturn - Tonight's Sky - Kirkpatrick Planetarium

The Planets in September

Mercury – This month the planet will be too close to the setting sun to be observable.

Venus- Venus will be a little more visible than Mercury and close to the thin waxing crescent moon on September 10. Still in the glow of the setting sun, both objects will be difficult to see.

 Mars – Mars is now lost in the sun’s glow and unobservable in September.

Jupiter- Jupiter is low in the sky at sunset, but it still dominates the evening sky. On September 17-18, it will be close to the bright moon.

Saturn- Like Jupiter, this month Saturn is bright and well placed in the sky after sunset. On September 16-17, the planet will be close to the moon like Jupiter.

Uranus- In September, Uranus is visible to the naked eye if observed from a location with a clear, dark sky. The planet is well placed in the morning sky in the constellation Aries. (Refer to the finder chart which below.) With a pair of binoculars, locate the Pleiades cluster in the constellation Taurus in the eastern sky. Then move down a little and back to the west, this is Aries. Scan the area until you locate a tiny, bluish disk. This is Uranus.

Neptune- Neptune is now observable by binoculars, but a telescope provides a much better view. The planet will reach its closest approach to Earth on September 14 and is visible all night. To find it, refer to the finder chart. First locate Saturn, then move east to Jupiter. Continue moving east a little more than the distance between Jupiter and Saturn to find Neptune. It will appear as a tiny, faint, deep blue disk when using a telescope’s high power eyepiece.

 

Object of the Month

To the casual observer, with the exception of the Milky Way, the night sky may appear unexceptional. However, the wonders that exist within it make themselves visible using long-exposure photography. This is where we find the true turbulent and amazing nature of the features which both create stars and result from their death.

One such interesting area goes by the odd name SH2-115. SH2-115 was discovered by astronomer Stewart Sharpless in 1959 in the summer constellation Cygnus. It’s buried deep in the stars, gas and dust of the Milky Way and found near the tail star of the swan. Here is the bright star Deneb, the brightest star in the constellation.

This entire area is filled with wispy clouds of molecular hydrogen and other elements, both of which are building blocks for new stars and the remains of dead stars. In places like this, we find the true meaning of stellar evolution.

This area is mainly populated by hydrogen, exotic oxygen, sulfur and other elements. It’s located around 7,500 light-years from Earth. The large, red cloud complex is a vast, star-forming region and shines with the light of ionized atoms, powered by the radiation from Berkeley 90—the small star cluster buried inside.

Of special interest is the small red circle in the lower right quarter of the image. This is SH2-116. When it was first discovered, it was thought to be the result of the death of a sun type star, or a planetary nebula. After intense research, it was actually determined to a star forming region with a very unusual circular shape. The wispy, linear, purplish clouds are interstellar gas and dust found throughout the Milky Way.

Images like this require many hours of exposure. The one seen here took 15 hours through special filters to show the detail and colors of the objects. This is the best way to experience the wonders of deep space.