As darkness falls on September 30, 2014, the wide waxing crescent moon resides to the east of the planet Mars and the star Antares in the constellation Scorpius. On this night, the moon reaches its southernmost declination for the month, at about 18.5 o south of the celestial equator. Even so, the moon swings about 5 degrees north of the December solstice point (23.5o south declination).
The moon at its southernmost point in its orbit is sometimes referred to as a southern standstill or southern lunistice. Depending on where the moon crosses the ecliptic – Earth’s orbital plane – during its 18.6-year cycle, the moon can swing anywhere from 5o north to 5 o south of the December solstice point. The December solstice point is found near The Teapot asterism in the western half of the constellation Sagittarius. (See sky charts below.)
Some 11 years from now, when the moon reaches its southernmost point for the month on September 29, 2025, the moon will swing about 5o south of the December solstice point, reaching a southern declination of 28.6o.
At nightfall on successive evenings after September 30, you’ll see the waxing moon moving farther and farther east of the planet Mars and star Antares. The moon will be also traveling northward, until it reaches its northernmost point on October 13, 2014.
The moon will stay out longer and longer after dark, until the moon turns full on the night of October 7-8, at which time the moon will shine from dusk until dawn.
This upcoming full moon will be the Northern Hemisphere’s full Hunter’s Moon, or the Southern Hemisphere’s first full moon of spring. The October 2014 full moon will swing right through the Earth’s dark shadow to stage a total lunar eclipse on the night of October 7-8 for North America. As seen from New Zealand, Australia and eastern Asia, the total eclipse will take place after sunset on October 8.
Bottom line: On September 30, 2014, the moon reaches its southernmost point for the month. But it passes north of the December solstice point on the sky’s dome, as it will continue to do until the year 2020. Also on this night, look for the planet Mars and star Antares near the moon.