TRADITIONALLY, September was the month when the crops were harvested; a time of year that was vital to local economies across the country.

Harvesting the crops as quickly as possible was crucial in ensuring that people had enough food for winter.

This is why the full moon we see this month is probably the best known of all: the Harvest Moon.

However this year the Harvest Moon will be a Micro Harvest Moon.

The Moon does not follow a circular path around the Earth; it is elliptical. This means that there will be a time during the year when the moon will be at its closest to us, or as astronomers call it, ‘at perigee’.

When the Moon is at its furthest from Earth, it is ‘at apogee’. The full moon in September is when the moon is at apogee.

This will mean that the Moon will appear smaller in the sky than normal.

The term Super Moon has been used to describe the Moon when it is close to us, we also need to get used to seeing a Micro-Moon.

At this time of year when the Sun sets the Moon rises which meant that when farmers were harvesting their crops they were not restricted to the normal hours of daylight. In medieval times all the harvesting was done by hand so it took much longer than mechanised methods used today.

The moonlight allowed people from entire villages to work throughout the night. (Of course, the Moon does not shine, so when we refer to ‘moonlight’ we really mean reflected sunlight.)

The extra light a couple of days either side of full moon meant that the farmers would hopefully harvest enough to survive the coming winter and have enough to sell at the markets which at this time were the lynch pins of the economy.

The nights are becoming noticeably darker earlier in the evenings. September is a transition month for the night sky, when the summer’s bright constellations start to give way to autumn’s finest, primarily the constellation of Pegasus.

The sight of the Great Square of Pegasus clear of the eastern horizon as darkness falls around 9 pm by mid month is a sure sign that autumn is upon us, with the promise of cooler evenings.

We are not completely done with the summer stars however; the Summer Triangle of Altair, Deneb and Vega still dominates the early evening sky.

Vega, in the constellation of Lyra the Lyre, is still very high in the sky but no longer overhead; Deneb, in the constellation of Cygnus the Swan, is now at its highest being nearly overhead; while the most southerly of the three stars, Altair, in the constellation of Aquila the Eagle, can still be seen easily but is now somewhat lower in the sky.

The other bright star of the summer skies, the red star Antares in the constellation of Scorpius the Scorpion, has now set.

A large part of the south western sky is occupied by the large but faint constellations of Hercules, Ophiuchus the Serpent Bearer and Serpens the Serpent. As the month progresses and these constellations move towards the horizon, they will be replaced in the south by the equally faint constellations of Capricornus the Sea Goat and Aquarius the Water Bearer.

The Plough, which is also known as Ursa Major or the Great Bear (and to the Americans as the Big Dipper), is now getting lower in the northern sky, which means of course that the ‘W’ of Cassiopeia is now getting higher in the sky.

These two groups are on opposite sides of the North Star, or to give its proper name, Polaris, which is found by using the two stars furthest from the handle of the plough and drawing a line from the right hand star through the left star and continuing the line across the sky until you reach the North Star. If the line is continued further, you reach Cassiopeia.

The Plough is one of our signpost constellations in the night sky and by using the three stars of the handle and curving round and down it is possible to see, low in the north west sky, the bright orange star Arcturus, which has been visible since spring. This will be the last month when you can see Arcturus before next spring.

Capella, in the constellation of Auriga the Charioteer, is now becoming more prominent in the northern sky. In the winter months Capella will occupy the overhead point in the sky, which is marked by the bright star Vega during the summer months.

The Planets in September:

As soon as its get dark look to the south and low down where you will see two bright dots in the sky.

The first is a bright white dot which is Jupiter, and if you look to the left of Jupiter will be a second less bright yellowish looking dot which is the planet Saturn. At around 11pm if you look low down in the south east you will see a bright red dot in the sky which is the red planet Mars.

If you happen to be out and about after midnight look to the south east beyond Mars and you will see Venus which during September will be seen rising four hours before the Sun. The other naked eye planet, Mercury, is too close to the Sun and cannot be seen.

Meteor Showers:

There are no major meteor showers to be seen this month

Phases of the Moon for September:

Full Moon September 2; Last Quarter September 10; New Moon September 17; First Quarter September 24.

On the night of September 24 at 8pm the Moon will be just below and to the right of Jupiter. On September 25 at 8.30 pm the Moon will be below and to the right of Saturn.

The Autumn Equinox:

On September 22 at 2.31 pm British Summer Time the Autumnal Equinox occurs, marking the start of autumn in the northern hemisphere and of spring in the southern hemisphere.

The word equinox comes from the Latin words, aequi, which means equal and nox, which means night.

At this instant the Sun lies above the equator and both poles of the planet are illuminated, meaning that on this day the length of daylight and night time are the same.

Due to the current coronavirus situation there will be no meetings of the Earby Astronomical Society until further notice.