The stars: The Moon obscured

The September sky, by Heather Couper and Nigel Henbest

If the Moon looks a bit odd on 16 September, don't be too worried. As it rises, around 1900 BST, the Moon will be largely in Earth's shadow. A few minutes later it will be entirely obscured. This total eclipse ends at 2018, when you will see the Moon begin to emerge again above the eastern horizon.

Two weeks earlier, people in Australia and New Zealand will be treated to the sight of the Moon blocking off part of the Sun's brilliant disc. The eclipse will not be total anywhere in the world, but if you are in the southern parts of those two countries you will see more than half the Sun obscured on the morning of 2 September.

Back in the night sky, brilliant Jupiter is still lording it over the heavens. The Moon is near it on September 13, and passes the next planet, Saturn, on 18 September.

Saturn is the most distant planet we can see with the naked eye, but in space terms it's only on our back doorstep: sunlight reflected from it takes about an hour to reach us. High above Saturn and Jupiter are three bright stars forming the Summer Triangle. The star at the lower point is Altair: its light takes 16 years to reach us. Deneb, to its upper left, is 1,800 light years away. But the Andromeda Galaxy, visible as a faint blur to the east, is 2 million light years from us: we see it as it was when our ancestors in Africa began to look human.

When we look to more distant galaxies, telescopes become time machines, revealing the cosmos as it was far in the past. Last month, the Hubble Space Telescope found the most distant object yet detected: an anonymous galaxy about 12 billion light years away. That light we see now left it long before the Sun and Earth were born.

We are currently living some 13 billion years after the Big Bang, in which the whole universe began. So we see this infant galaxy as it was only 1 billion years after the Big Bang. And the Hubble pictures show it as a hotbed of action, ablaze with the birth pangs of the first generation of stars.

But we can probe still more deeply into space and time. Radio telescopes pick out a "glow" from even farther afield, almost 13 billion light years off. This is radiation from the Big Bang itself. Observations like these have shown that the Big Bang is not just a theory, to be set alongside conjectures like the Fifties Steady State hypothesis (which said the universe was infinitely old).

In 1992 the orbiting Cosmic Background Explorer (Cobe) found "ripples" in this background radiation, now confirmed with sensitive radio telescopes set up by British astronomers in the Canary Islands. The ripples show where the gases from the Big Bang began to curdle into denser clumps, which became galaxies.

European astronomers are now planning a follow-up to Cobe, called Planck, which will explore these ripples in much more detail, and answer the last great remaining question in cosmology: how do the clumps of gas from the Big Bang turn into infant galaxies like that just discovered by Hubble? So the answers we are seeking will provide the clue to our own ultimate originn

All the latest information on the origin of the universe is to be found in the authors' book `Big Bang' (Dorling Kindersley, pounds 9.99).

September diary (24-hour, BST)

1-2 2244-0323: partial eclipse of Sun (Australia and New Zealand)

2 0052 new Moon

10 0231 Moon at first quarter

16 1916-2018 total eclipse of Moon; 1951 full Moon;

Mercury at greatest western elongation

22 2356 autumn equinox

23 1436 Moon at last quarter

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own