Think you can’t find planets, identify bright stars, or find constellations you may want to give this a try. No star maps, you just need to find the Moon. The best times to look are 30 minutes after sunset or when the Moon in is the morning sky about an hour before sunrise.
This month (2013) the Moon will pass by the planets Saturn, Mars, Venus and Jupiter. The bright stars to see are Castor, Pollux, Aldebaran, Capella, Arcturus, Antares, Deneb, Altair, Vega, Betelgeuse, Rigel, Procyon, and Sirius. We say good-by to the constellation Virgo and welcome Leo.
This is set up for Aurora, Colorado. Things will be slightly different depending on your location, but will still work for finding the planets and bright stars.
Start observing 60 minutes before sunrise which is approximately 6:27am MDT
On September 1 a waning crescent moon is in the constellation Gemini the twins. The two somewhat bright stars to the left of the Moon are Pollux (lower) and Castor (upper) the Gemini twins. The crescent moon is almost centered in a triangle formed by three stars. The bright “star” above the Moon is Jupiter. To the lower left is a dimmer Mars. To the lower right is the bright star Procyon in Canis Minor the little dog. If you draw a line from Mars through the Moon it will point to the bright star Betelgeuse a red giant in the constellation Orion the hunter. To the right of Betelgeuse through the three vertical “belt stars” (Orion’s belt) is Rigel a blue giant. Follow the “belt stars” toward the horizon and you see a very bright star, Sirius the dog star in Canis Major the large dog. These are the stars of the evening winter sky.
On September 2 a thinner crescent moon moves below and to the right of Mars which is in the constellation Cancer, the crab. Procyon is to the upper right of the Moon. There are no noticeably bright stars in Cancer.
On September 3-5 the Moon is lost to the glare of the rising Sun. On September 5 the Moon is new (no moon). The Moon rises and sets with the Sun. The Moon will become visible in the early evening, in the west within a few days. The new moon marks the transition of the Moon moving from the morning side of the Sun to the evening side.
Observe 30 to 60 minutes after sunset which is approximately 7:20pm MDT
On September 8 get out the camera. A thin waxing crescent moon in the constellation Virgo the Virgin will be next to Venus just above the western horizon thirty minutes after sunset. Above and right of the pair is the bright star Arcturus in the constellation Bootes the herdsman.
On September 9-10 the crescent moon thickens and moves to the constellation Libra the scales. There are no noticeably bright stars in Libra. On September 9 Saturn is to the right of the Moon. On September 10 the Moon will between Saturn (right) and Antares red super giant and rival of Mars (it looks a lot like Mars). See if you can detect the red hue. If Antares were the Sun the Earth (and Mars) would be orbiting inside of it. Antares is in the constellation Scorpius the scorpion.
On September 11-12 the Moon is in the constellation Ophiuchus the serpent-bearer and thirteenth constellation of the Zodiac. On September 11 the Moon will be directly above Antares. On September 12 the Moon is at first quarter or a half moon. When the Moon is at first quarter it is approximately in same place in space as the Earth and you were 3.5 hours ago.
On September 13-14 the Moon is in the constellation Sagittarius the archer. Sagittarius points the way to the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way. Most amateur astronomers call Sagittarius the teapot. The pattern of stars, albeit somewhat faint, looks more like a teapot than an archer.
On September 15-16 the waxing gibbous moon is in the constellation Capricornus, the goat. There are no noticeably bright stars in Capricornus. On September 15 look well above the Moon. Three stars from a large triangle overhead called the Summer Triangle. The star directly overhead is Vega in the constellation in Lyra the harp. The bright star between the Moon and Vega is Altair in the constellation Aqulia the eagle. The third star, which is the dimmest, Deneb in the constellation Cygnus the swan is to the left of Vega. Deneb is the dimmest of the three, but the farthest away at 2600 light years. It burns 196,000 times brighter than the Sun.
On September 17 the Moon is in the constellation Aquarius the water bearer. There are no noticeably bright stars are in Aquarius. The Moon will look full but it is not.
On September 18-19 Moon moves into the constellation Pisces the fishes. There are no noticeably bright stars in Pisces. On September 19 the Moon is full. Technically the Moon is full for only a moment in time, but looks full three days. The full moon marks the transition of the Moon moving from the evening side of the Sun to the morning side of the Sun. Watch for a spectacular full moon set on September 19 and 20 about one hour before sunrise (morning). For more detailed information about this month’s full moon including names go here.
Start observing 60 minutes before sunrise which is approximately 6:44am MDT
On September 22-23 the Moon moves the constellation Aries, the ram. There are no noticeably bright stars are in Aries. The Moon is moving toward the bright star Aldebaran to the left in Taurus.
On September 24-26 the Moon is in the constellation Taurus the bull. On the September 24 the Moon is to the right of the bright star Aldebaran. On September 25 the Moon is left of Aldebaran. On September 26 the Moon is at last quarter (half moon). At this phase the Moon is approximately in the same place in space the Earth and you will be in 3.5 hours. Above the Moon directly overhead is Capella in the constellation Auriga the charioteer. Note how the Moon will thin and plunge toward the rising Sun in the next six days. The Moon is also above two bright stars in the constellation Orion the hunter; Betelgeuse (upper) and Rigel (lower) Bright Jupiter is to the left of the Moon.
On September 27-28 the thinning crescent moon approaches Jupiter and returns to Gemini the twins where it started out at the beginning of the month. On September 26 the Moon is directly above the very bright star is Sirius, the dog star, in Canis Major the large dog. On September 27 the Moon is below Jupiter and above the bright star Procyon in Canis Minor the little dog. Above the Moon and Jupiter are Pollux (lower) and Castor (upper) the Gemini twins.
On September 29-30 the Moon returns to Cancer, the crab. There are no noticeably bright stars in Cancer.
Wishing you clear skies