Southern Colorado Skies / March 19 – 25, 2017

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/.

M44, the Beehive Cluster, is near the center of the faint constellation Cancer between the easier to find constellations of Gemini and Leo. You can see these to the east and southeast just after dark this week. The first photo below shows M44 (upper left of center) as it appears under fairly dark skies with just your eyes. The second photo was taken through a wide-field telescope, but binoculars will give you a similar view. There are about a thousand stars in this open cluster (gravitationally bound), and it is one of the closest of such clusters at 520 to 610 light-years away. Have a look!

If you’d like to know a little more about Messier objects such as the Beehive Cluster, see my article at http://scaspueblo.com/blog/2017/03/16/what-is-a-messier-object/.

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Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak (“T-G-K”) is now magnitude 7 or 8 (visible with binoculars), and it is expected reach 6th magnitude at the end of March and stay about that bright through April. See the Sky & Telescope article and finder chart at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/comet-41pt-g-k-glows-green-for-st-paddys-day/.

THIS WEEK

Monday (March 20)

Look for the nearly last-quarter Moon only a few degrees from Saturn high in the southern sky before dawn.

Last-quarter Moon 9:58 a.m. MDT).

Vernal Equinox at 4:29 a.m. MDT. This is when the Sun crosses the equator heading north and heralds the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere.

Wednesday (March 22)

Today is the best day (and night) to try for a rare dual sighting of Venus, as an evening “star” AND as a morning “star.” Look extremely low in the west-northwest shortly after sunset, and again low in the east shortly before sunrise. Binoculars will help (but beware the Sun!).

Saturday (March 25)

Jupiter’s moon Io will be eclipsed by Jupiter’s shadow about 10:18 MDT. Look with a telescope (a small one will do) just off Jupiter’s western limb.

Venus reaches inferior conjunction (in line with but a little north of the Sun).

DAYLIGHT

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PLANETS

Mercury (in Aquarius):

Look to the west to see Mercury in the evening twilight, to the left of Venus.

Venus (in Pisces):

Lower and lower in the sky as the week progresses, and finally reach inferior conjunction on March 25th when it will pass just north of the Sun on its way to becoming a morning “star.” (See above for information regarding a possible dual sighting of Venus on March 22nd.

Mars (in Pisces/Aries):

Look for a faint orange “star” low in the west during late twilight.

Jupiter (in Virgo):

Jupiter rises just after dark and is high in the sky about 11 p.m., and dominates the southwestern sky before dawn. The bright star below it is Spica (in Virgo). Jupiter reaches opposition on April 7th, which is its closest approach during this apparition.

Saturn (in Sagittarius):

Look in the south-southeast in the early morning hours, to the upper right of the Sagittarius “teapot.” Reddish Antares is about 18 degrees to Saturn’s right (a little less than the width of your fist with your thumb extended).

Uranus (in Pisces):

Lost in the morning glare.

Neptune (in Aquarius):

Lost in the evening twilight.

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 location in order to be assured of accurate times, elevations, etc. If you’re unfamiliar with Iridium flares, check out my article at: http://scaspueblo.com/blog/2017/02/25/iridium-flares/.

Sunday (March 19) 08:14:44 p.m. / Magnitude -4.2 / SE / Elevation 55 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

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