SCAS – Southern Colorado Skies / December 27, 2015 – January 2, 2016

Consider a planetarium program to help you plan your observations. There are many commercial products available, and a very good program (Cartes du Ciel) is available free at http://www.ap-i.net/skychart/en/start.

THIS WEEK

Comet Catalina (C/2013US10) is still in view – see my last two blog posts. It’s in the east just before sunrise but it will continue to move higher during the next few weeks. For the next few weeks it is predicted to stay dim at about Magnitude 6 (at least binoculars are required). It should be very close to Arcturus on January 1st – see the attached photo I took last week and turned into a “finder chart.” For more information about Comet Catalina see http://earthsky.org/space/comet-catalina-c2013-us10-november-december-january-2015-2016.) Using binoculars, the comet should appear as a small fuzzy patch of light. [The comet photo was taken on December 6, 2015, by Brian D. Ottum in Rancho Hidalgo, New Mexico.]

comet catalina_annotatedcomet-catalina-12-6-2015-Brian-D-Ottum-Rancho-Hidalgo-NM-e1449680049755

Also note that M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, will pass near the zenith (nearly straight up in the sky) a little after dark. If you haven’t yet seen it, it’s easy to spot in binoculars or a small telescope (in really dark skies no optics are required to spot it as a faint fuzz-ball!). M31 is a spiral galaxy about 2.2 million light-years from Earth; it’s about 200,000 light-years in diameter and is on a collision course (in the far, far distant future) with our Milky Way Galaxy.

Thursday (December 31)

As you’re out tonight celebrating the new year, take note that the last-quarter Moon is just a little to the lower right of Jupiter. They both rise about 11 p.m.

Saturday (January 2)

Sunrise occurs its latest for the year. More information on the “imbalance” of sunrises and sunsets may be found at http://www.timeanddate.com/astronomy/equation-of-time.html.

Planets

Mercury (in Sagittarius)

Look for shy Mercury about 30 to 60 minutes after sunset in the low west-southwest. It’s plenty bright (Magnitude -0.6) to be seen with the naked eye.

Venus (in Libra), Mars (in Virgo), Jupiter (in Virgo/Leo), and Saturn (in Scorpius)

Still-bright Venus keeps company in the pre-dawn eastern sky with Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Saturn is now part of the party, but may be difficult to see far to the lower left of Venus – binoculars may help but be cautious of the rising Sun!

Uranus (in Pisces)

High in the southern sky by early evening.

Neptune (in Aquarius)

High in the southern sky by early evening.

Iridium Flares and International Space Station (ISS):

Sorry – these are too numerous to list here! If you’re serious, load the ISS DETECTOR app on your smart phone or tablet. Alternatively, refer to SCAS member Chuck Percival’s column in the Sunday Pueblo Chieftain.

Have fun!

Dave Furry, President SCAS

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