Southern Colorado Skies / November 27 – December 3, 2016

Consider a planetarium program to help you plan your observations. There are many commercial products available, and an excellent program (STELLARIUM) is available free at http://www.stellarium.org/.

WHICH WAY DOES THE CRESCENT MOON POINT?

You have probably noticed that the crescent Moon appears to rotate as it crosses the sky. Sometimes the “horns” point down, sometimes horizontally, and sometimes they point up. Why is that? Because the horns of a crescent Moon point away from the Sun, as shown in the following graphic.

rotation

In the graphic, the Sun does not appear to be in line with the crescent Moon. Remember that the sky is curved but the graphic is a flat representation; the most direct path from the Sun to the Moon, therefore, is a circle in the graphic. The path would appear as a straight line in the sky.

THIS WEEK

The Andromeda Galaxy (M31) and the Double Cluster in Perseus are two famous deep-sky objects, and in a good sky you can see each of them with the naked eye. They are especially easy to observe (bring binoculars or a small scope) because they are located only 22 degrees apart and very high in the sky. Look to the right of Cassiopeia (M31) and closer below Cassiopeia (Double Cluster); consult a star chart, like Stellarium referenced above, to get exact locations based on the time of your observation.

m31_11-24-2016

m31_11-24-2016

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Tuesday (November 29)

New Moon at 5:18 a.m. MST.

Wednesday (November 30)

Mercury and the very thin crescent Moon should be visible starting about 15 minutes after sunset, about 25 degrees (a little more than a hand width, with extended fingers and thumb, held at arm’s length) to the lower right of Venus. The Moon and Mercury will be about 7 degrees (a little less than a fist width) apart. Watch out for the Sun!

Thursday (December 1)

The Moon will be about 10 degrees (about a fist width) above Mercury in the southwest during bright twilight.

Friday (December 2)

In the southwest at dusk, the crescent Moon and Venus about 7 degrees apart (a little less than a fist width).

Saturday (December 3)

The crescent Moon will now be above Venus during and after dusk. They will again be about 7 degrees apart.

PLANETS

Mercury (in Ophiuchus)

Hiding deep within the Sun’s glare (except later in the week, as noted above)

Venus (in Sagittarius)

Shining brightly n the southwest in the early evening.

Mars (in Capricornus)

Look in the south-southwest at nightfall.

Jupiter (in Virgo)

Jupiter rises about 2:30 a.m. and is bright in the southeast by dawn.

Saturn (in Ophiuchus)

Hiding deep within the Sun’s glare.

NASA’s Cassini mission is finishing up its final year of exploration (see NASA’s press release at the following link: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2016-242.

Uranus (in Pisces)

High in the southeast by nightfall.

Neptune (in Aquarius)

High in the south by nightfall.

BRIGHT IRIDIUM FLARES

The following data are based on my location in Pueblo West, Colorado. If you live well outside this area, you should consider checking this information for your site in order to be assured of accurate times, elevations, etc.

Wednesday (November 30): 5:29 a.m. / Magnitude -5.6 / SSE / Elevation 19 degrees

Thursday (December 1): 5:23 a.m. / Magnitude -2.8 / SSE / Elevation 19 degrees

Thursday (December 1): 6:56 a.m. / Magnitude -6.2 / ENE / Elevation 31 degrees

INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION (ISS)

These are too numerous to list here! If you’re serious, load the ISS DETECTOR app on your smart phone or tablet.

Carpe noctem

Dave Furry

Pueblo West, Colorado

SCAS rework Logo 3 Color copy

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