7 unmissable meteor showers, constellations and stargazing events in Dorset
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Bob Mizon MBE of the Wessex Astronomical Society selects some starry highlights to look for in Dorset's night skies in September:
Eyes peeled for the Pleiades: A sure sign of autumn’s impending arrival is the reappearance in the eastern evening sky of the glittering triangular Pleiades cluster, Lord Tennyson’s ‘fireflies tangled in a silver braid’, to the left of Perseus at the edge of the chart. This jewel box of stars, wondrous through binoculars, is 440 light years away, so we see it as it was in 1581, about a year before a young Will Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway.
A low prowling bear: The Great Bear (Ursa Major) is low to the northern horizon late at night in early autumn, leading ancient Native Americans to ascribe the reddening of the trees to blood falling from a wound inflicted by hunters during her stay on Earth.
Fish over the Channel: To the south-east is the distinctive sky-marker of the Square of Pegasus, its right-hand stars pointing downwards to Fomalhaut in Piscis Austrinus, the Southern Fish. This Sun-sized star, 75 light years away, is the lowest first-magnitude star visible from southern Britain, winking above the Channel horizon briefly in autumn.
Planets emerging: Low in the west, Venus emerges from the solar glow briefly at dusk in September. Look for it just after sunset, below the crescent Moon on the 10th. Throughout this period Jupiter and Saturn adorn the south-eastern sky as night falls. Watch the gibbous Moon encounter them mid-month.
Orionid Shower: Around the time of the Autumnal Equinox on September 22, in the late evening and towards dawn you may see the occasional flash of the Orionid meteor shower, they peak around mid-October.
3 stargazing events in Dorset this month
Nature Needs the Night: Part of the b-side Festival in Portland this is a presentation in association with the Commission for Dark Skies and Weymouth Astronomy Club and features an evening of fascinating talks with Bob Mizon MBE, FRAS, and Dr John Macdonald, including a live tour of the night sky. Participants are encouraged to bring binoculars for outdoor viewing weather permitting. The tour will take place inside with Stellarium if the skies are cloudy or it is raining. Cost £3.83 book tickets here
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When: September 9, &.30pm
Where: The Pulpit, Southwell, Portland, DT5 2JT
Stargazing at Durlston Country Park in Swanage: Join the Wessex Astronomical Society to use telescopes to view the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn, Andromeda galaxy, Nebulae, Milky Way and the Autumn Constellations. Cost £3. Weather dependent - phone 01929 424443 to confirm. Learning Centre.
When: September 12 at 8pm & September 25 at 7.30pm
Location: Durlston Country Park and National Nature Reserve, Lighthouse Rd, Swanage BH19 2JL