SCAS – Southern Colorado Skies / March 6 – 12, 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.

IMG_4586THIS WEEK

M44 (Number 44 on Messier’s list), also known as the Beehive Cluster, is an open star cluster near the center of the faint constellation Cancer. It is about 525 light-years from Earth.

In relatively dark skies this cluster is visible to the naked eye (I can see it from Pueblo West). In order to take it all in at once, M44 is best seen in binoculars or a wide-field telescope; the attached photo was taken from my deck last week with my 5-inch f/5 refractor (no eyepiece or Barlow lens).

From what I’ve found it’s called the Beehive Cluster because early astronomers likened the many bright stars to a “swarm of bees.” Have a look – it’s high in the south about 9:30 p.m.

Monday (March 7)

Io and Europa, two of Jupiter’s many moons, will cast shadows onto the gas giant from 5:28 to 6:58 p.m. MST. The Great Red Spot will then be visible across Jupiter’s meridian about 9:04 p.m. MST.

Tuesday (March 8)

Jupiter is at opposition (on our side of and in line with the Sun, which is its closest position ro Earth for this pass). Look for Jupiter next to the “hind foot” of Leo.

New Moon at 6:54 p.m. MST. There is a total eclipse of the Sun across Indonesia and the Pacific from 5:17 to 9:37 p.m. MST. Note that there will be a webcast on NASA TV starting 6 p.m. MST, with totality from 6:38 to 6:42 p.m. MST. THIS WILL BE A GREAT OPPORTUNITY TO PREVIEW “OUR OWN” TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE COMING UP IN AUGUST 2017.

Saturday (March 12)

Don’t forget to set your clock ahead one hour tonight. Daylight savings time begins at 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning.

PLANETS

Mercury (in Capricornus/Aquarius)

Lost in the glare of sunrise.

Venus (in Capricornus)

Getting lower in the southeast – look about 20 or 30 minutes before sunrise.

Mars (in Libra/Scorpius)

High in the south at dawn (it rises around midnight). Look for the distinctive reddish hue. Surface features may now be visible – have a look!

Jupiter (in Leo)

By the “hind foot” of Leo. It rises just after twilight, highest about 1 a.m. in the south, and low in the southwestern sky at dawn. Jupiter is in opposition on March 8th.

Saturn (in Ophiuchus)

Rises about 1:00 a.m. and in the south-southeast at dawn, it’s now about 15 degrees east of Mars.

Uranus (in Pisces)

Low in the west sky by early evening.

Neptune (in Aquarius)

Lost in the Sun’s glare (now at conjunction).

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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