SCAS / Southern Colorado Skies / February 7 – 13, 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

At this time of year you are treated to the glorious constellation Orion high above the southeastern horizon just after dark. But have you noticed a couple of often overlooked constellations just below Orion? There are so many fun objects in Orion that we tend to neglect “lesser” constellations in our observations. I’d like to point out two of Orion’s companions in the sky – the rabbit (Lepus) and one of Orion’s two hunting dogs (Canis Major).

The accompanying photo was taken from Pueblo West and shows Orion on top (north) accompanied by one of his faithful dogs (Canis Major) apparently busy chasing Orions’s prey – the rabbit. By looking at the matching photo with constellation lines, you can see that the dog appears to be vertical and is fondly looking at its master, with Sirius blazing away as its heart. Lepus (to the right, or west, of Canis Major) has a more horizontal appearance; its ears appear just under Orion’s left knee (a.k.a., the blue super-giant star Rigel).lepus (4)

lepus (lines)

Thursday (February 11)

The shadow of Jupiter’s moon Europa crosses the gas giant’s face from 7:02 p.m. to 9:51 p.m. MST. Europa transits the planet from 8:15 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. MST.

Another of Jupiter’s moons, Io, casts its shadow starting at 10:51 p.m. MST.

PLANETS

Mercury (in Sagittarius)

Sinking lower in the southeast about 45 minutes before dawn, but still visible to the lower left of much brighter Venus.

Venus (in Sagittarius)

Getting lower in the southeast just before dawn.

Mars (in Libra)

High in the southeast at dawn. Look for the distinctive reddish hue. It’s at western quadrature – some sources say look for a gibbous shape (did you know that outer planets can assume a gibbous state like the Moon does?). In May, Mars will be more than twice the diameter it is now.

Jupiter (in Leo/Virgo)

Rises about 9 p.m., highest about 2 a.m., and in the southwestern sky at dawn.

Saturn (in Ophiuchus)

In the southeast at dawn, to the upper right of Venus.

Uranus (in Pisces)

High in the west sky by early evening.

Neptune (in Aquarius)

Getting lost in the sunset.

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, SCAS Director of Education

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