Southern Colorado Skies / August 6 – 12, 2017

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

THIS WEEK

 If you’re at least as old as I am you probably have vivid memories of the “space race” of the 1960s (and late 1950s), including the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. The Apollo program was of course the ultimate prize, landing on and exploring the Moon, consisting of 11 space flights beginning in 1968 and ending in 1972. A total of 12 astronauts walked on the Moon. (For more information about the Apollo program, see https://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/5-8/features/nasa-knows/what-was-apollo-program-58.html.)

The following graphic shows the approximate locations of the six missions that actually landed on the Moon. It’s fun to try and spot those locations by looking up at the Moon (binoculars or a telescope at low power are best, but just the naked eye works fine, too), and maybe pondering the fact that humans actually walked (or drove) on the parts of the lunar surface that you’re now looking at.

Monday (August 7)

Full Moon 12:11 p.m. MDT.

A partial eclipse of the Moon is visible tonight from eastern Europe, most of Africa and Asia, and Australia. I mention this event because it’s tied to the total solar eclipse in two weeks (half an orbit of the Moon).

Wednesday (August 9)

The Moon and Neptune are in conjunction tonight. The Moon will be 3.4 degrees southeast of Neptune.

Thursday (August 10)

The longitudinal libration (“rocking”) of the Moon is at an extreme today, and there is some libration in latitude. This allows you to see more of the Moon’s surface than usual; for example the crater Grimaldi will be in view on the western side of the Moon.

Friday (August 11)

Look for the Perseid meteor shower to be at its maximum tonight and tomorrow night. The pesky Moon will dampen things a bit, but the brightest meteors will still shine through the moonlight. You may see a meteor every couple minutes on average, depending on your sky brightness.

Saturday (August 12)

The Perseid meteor shower continues tonight.

The Moon and Uranus are in conjunction tonight. The Moon will be 5.1 degrees southwest of Uranus.

DAYLIGHT

PLANETS

Mercury (in Leo/Sextans):

Lost in the glare of the Sun.

Venus (in Gemini):

Look for very bright Venus in the east before dawn. To Venus’ lower right (west) you may see orange Betelgeuse in Orion (a sure sign that winter is coming!), while high above you can see the Pleiades star cluster..

Mars (in Cancer):

Invisible within the glare of the Sun.

Jupiter (in Virgo):                               

Jupiter is still bright in the west-southwest as night begins.

Saturn (in Ophiuchus):

Saturn is visible low in the sky in the south after nightfall. It’s to the upper right (west) of the Sagittarius “teapot” as shown in last week’s graphic.

Uranus (in Pisces):

High in the southeast before dawn.

Neptune (in Aquarius):

High in the southeast before dawn.

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/.

Wednesday (August 9) 5:14:36 a.m. / Magnitude -2.0 / SW / Elevation 64 degrees

Wednesday (August 9) 10:35:55 p.m. / Magnitude -1.8 / WSW / Elevation 11 degrees

Saturday (August 12) 9:34:13 p.m. / Magnitude -5.8 / N / Elevation 14 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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