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The Buzz

September Sky Watching: Fall Begins Soon, Even If Forecast Says Otherwise

(Photo by Chad Merda)

September is a month of change as summer transitions to fall, even if the weather forecast indicates otherwise. 

What we consider meteorological fall begins September 1, but the weather doesn't usually feel like fall when this milestone rolls around each year. Astronomical fall kicks off a few weeks later, when the autumnal equinox occurs, although it sometimes still feels like the dog days of summer when fall officially begins.

The astronomical seasons don't have much to do with the weather at all, but are instead tied to Earth's position as it relates to the sun, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The autumnal equinox occurs on or about September 22 each year, when the sun passes directly over the equator.

Earth passes over the equator twice each year. The first time is the vernal, or spring, equinox, which is on or around March 21 every year. The upcoming autumnal equinox is the second of the two annual occurrences. This year's autumnal equinox will occur at precisely 8:30 a.m. September 22, according to the National Weather Service.

While astronomical autumn and spring begin with an equinox, summer and winter begin with solstices, which are kind of like the opposite of an equinox. At the point of the summer and winter solstices, Earth reaches its highest or lowest point in the sky at noon. At the summer solstice, Earth reaches its highest point, resulting in the longest amount of daylight for the year. For the winter solstice, the planet is at its lowest point at noon, resulting in the least amount of daylight all year. 

One meteor shower, the southern Taurids, is active during September, but it is a weak meteor shower that doesn't usually produce more than five meteors per hour, according to the American Meteor Society. The southern Taurids is a long-lasting meteor shower, beginning September 10 and lasting until November 20. Its peak will be October 28 and 29.

Although they produce fewer meteors per hour than many other meteor showers, the southern Taurids and the northern Taurids, which begins in October and runs through December, are noted for fireball activity. Fireballs are very bright meteors, the meteor society reports. Fireballs are typically as bright or brighter than Venus appears in the morning or evening sky. Reports of fireballs are often higher from September through November because of the Taurid meteor showers. 

September kicks off with a nearly full moon, and the full moon for the month will be September 2. The precise moment when the moon reaches it's fullest point will be 12:22 a.m. September 2, reports. 

The September full moon is known as the harvest moon or the corn moon because historically September is the month when corn is harvested, Farmers' Almanac reports. However, the harvest moon is technically defined as the full moon that occurs closest to the autumnal equinox. 

Because of that definition, the harvest moon most often occurs in September. However, this year, because the full moon for September is so early in the month, the harvest moon will be the first of October's two full moons, which will be October 1, EarthSky reports.

This year, October will experience two full moons, on the first and last days of the month. That means Halloween will be both a full moon and a blue moon, which is when a second full moon occurs in a calendar month. How spooky is that?


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