Stargazing: Simmer dim well over as autumn arrives

THE SKIES are getting darker, with autumn starting at 16 minutes to 5pm on the afternoon of 2nd September.

The “simmer dim” is well and truly over and the nights now become longer, giving more time to look at the splendours of the heavens.

New moon is on the 29th and full moon is on the 15th.


The moon will be out of the way from the 1st to the 8th and the 22nd to the 30th.

The planets are close to the horizon so are difficult to see from Shetland. Get a good southern horizon and Jupiter will be the bright planet in the south.


The moon will be out of the way from the 1st to the 11th and the 25th to the 30th.

If you have a map then Uranus and Neptune are worth searching for with binoculars.


The moon will be out of the way from the 1st to the 6th and the 19th to the 30th.

The morning hours bring some minor planets in to view. With a celestial map it is possible to follow their changing positions night after night.

So there may be little planetary viewing over the month but the moon and stars are still there. If you are out planet hunting then go to the “Heavens Above” website beforehand and get the timings of the International Space Station, it is now very bright.

What a wonderful month August was astronomically. The partial solar eclipse at the beginning and the partial lunar eclipse half way through – and the clouds stayed away enough to see both really well.

It will be the end of 2009 before we get another partial lunar eclipse. The end of 2010 will bring a full lunar eclipse but that will be difficult to see right the way through and the next full lunar eclipse we could see completely is in 2015 – so I hope you got a glimpse of the one last month.

As for solar eclipses there is a partial one at the beginning of 2011.

There are no major meteor showers this September but there is the seen once only Aurigids shower. Reported back in 1935 and not seen since.

Will they return? The only way to find out is to wrap up warm and get the sun lounger out on the night of 31st August/1st September. If nothing else a clear sky will allow you to re-acquaint yourself with the stars and find the constellations and root out the brighter Messier objects. There are starter packs for astronomy and some can be found in The Shetland Times Bookshop.

As for the August Perseids I did see 10 this year but did not manage to photograph any of them.

Each September I try to persuade those of you who are finishing your summer jobs to check your outside lighting. Not just that it is working, but to consider the light pollution these installations can cause.

Try and keep the wattage of the lamps as low as possible and fit shades to keep the light inside your property.

Over the summer the new roundabout has appeared in Lerwick and that has some excellent lighting. The two supermarkets are doing work – Tesco have a new sign going up and while it has to be lit hopefully it will be lit to avoid any pollution.

The Co-op are doing much work and it is to be hoped that their car park lighting scheme is efficient and non-light polluting.

Anyway let me get off my hobby-horse otherwise I will be telling you how good the car park lighting at the museum is. If you know of any good or bad lighting then do tell me.

Clear skies.

Chris Brown


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