Southern Colorado Skies / December 31, 2017 – January 6, 2018

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

It’s low in the sky so use patience to look for Mercury in the southeastern sky before dawn. Don’t confuse it with orangish Arcturus to its right (west).

Also this week, look for Mars and Jupiter in the southeastern sky before dawn. As shown in the following graphic, just before dawn on Saturday, January 6th, it will be easy to find brilliant Jupiter well up in the south-southeastern sky. Fainter Mars is only 1/3 degree to its right (west) – less than the width of a chopstick held at arm’s length! PHOTO OPPORTUNITY: both planets will fit in a medium-power eyepiece view, but each planet is near its maximum distances from Earth so they will appear tiny. On the morning of the 7th you get another opportunity – now Mars is 1/3 degree below Jupiter.

(Not sure what that “M” object is in the graphics? Check out my short article at http://scaspueblo.com/blog/2017/03/16/what-is-a-messier-object/.)

Monday (January 1)

Full Moon at 7:24 p.m. MST. This apparition is a super “Super Moon” because it’s at its minimum perigee (closest point in orbit) of the year. Contrary to what you may read in the newspaper or on-line, the difference in brightness and size is so slight that only a seasoned observer will notice the difference between this Moon and a “regular” Moon.

Also, this is the first of two full moons in the month of January, making it a “Blue Moon” month. A Blue Moon is the second of two full moons within the same month. This leaves short February without a full moon this year (sometimes referred to as a “Black Moon”), but another Blue Moon will occur in March.

Wednesday (January 3)

The Quadrantid meteor shower, which has reached as high as 100 meteors per hour under dark skies, will be mostly washed out by a 96-percent-lit Moon just past full. As with all meteor showers, the optimum viewing time is after midnight because the Earth is then turning into the shower.

 

Thursday (January 4)

The Moon will glide close to Regulus through the night. (In Alaska and northern Canada the Moon will occult Regulus.)

Saturday (January 6) and Sunday (January 7)

Look for Mars and Jupiter practically atop each other in the early morning, as described above.

DAYLIGHT

 

PLANETS

Mercury (in Ophiuchus)

Mercury finally makes an appearance at dawn early this week. Look to the southeast in early dawn. (See the above graphic.)

Venus and Saturn (both in Sagittarius)

Both planets are deep in the glare of the Sun this week.

Mars and Jupiter (both in Libra)

Both planets rise about 3 a.m. and are well up in the east-southeastern sky by dawn. Mars and Jupiter are within 1/3 degree of each other on Friday and Saturday mornings (see above description and graphic).

Uranus (in Pisces)

High in the south-southeast at nightfall.

Neptune (in Aquarius)

Low in the southwest at 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 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 (December 31) 6:38:47 p.m. / Magnitude -7.3 / SSE / Elevation 29 degrees

Sunday (December 31) 6:39:04 p.m. / Magnitude -2.3 / S / Elevation 29 degrees

Monday (January 1) 6:33:00 p.m. / Magnitude -3.2 / S / Elevation 29 degrees

Tuesday (January 2) 6:00:41 p.m. / Magnitude -1.4 / WNW / Elevation 10 degrees

Tuesday (January 2) 6:30:46 p.m. / Magnitude -2.5 / S / Elevation 30 degrees

Wednesday (January 3) 5:45:41 p.m. / Magnitude -5.3 / W / Elevation 13 degrees

Wednesday (January 3) 6:25:40 p.m. / Magnitude -2.4 / S / Elevation 30 degrees

Thursday (January 4) 5:30:37 p.m. / Magnitude -1.8 / W / Elevation 16 degrees

Friday (January 5) 5:24:42 p.m. / Magnitude -1.9 / W / Elevation 16 degrees

Saturday (January 6) 5:18:24 p.m. / Magnitude -3.3 / W / Elevation 18 degrees

INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION (ISS)

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

Carpe noctem

Dave Furry

Pueblo West, Colorado

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