IF IT’S CLEAR
By  Fulton Wright Jr.
Prescott, AZ

Celestial events (from Sky & Telescope magazine, Astronomy magazine, and anywhere else I can find information) customized for Prescott, Arizona. 

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November 2017

This month would be a good time to find Uranus and Neptune if you haven’t done it in the past. Neither presents much to look at in a telescope. Go online for finder charts so you know where to look.

Also, you might find a comet this month. C2017 O1 is detailed in the article in Sky & Telescope, November 2017, p. 48. It is also called ASASSN1.

On Friday, November 3, at 5:43 PM (8 minutes after sunset), the full Moon rises, spoiling any chance of finding faint fuzzies for the night. Later that night, at 9:39 PM, the Moon occults a 4th magnitude star, Mu Ceti. The star reappears at 10:50 PM. This will be an occultation by the full Moon, so it will be easiest to see with a big telescope at high power.

On Sunday, November 5, at 2:00 AM, most of the USA returns to standard time. Arizona, on the other hand, having eschewed such silliness as daylight savings time, cruises on unperturbed. We just miss an occultation of Aldebaran because the star hasn’t risen yet. The star rises at 7:15 PM after the Moon has passed between us and it.

On Friday, November 10, the Moon is at last quarter phase, and rises at 12:13 AM (Saturday).

On Saturday, November 11, at 10:02 AM, the Moon occults a 1st magnitude star, Regulus. The star reappears at 11:01 AM. This is a daylight occultation, so a big telescope, high power, and a tracking mount will all be useful.

On Monday, November 13, about 6:30 AM, you can see Venus and Jupiter less than 1/2 a degree apart. Look low above the east-southeast for the pair.

On Saturday, November 18, it is new Moon and you have all night to hunt for faint fuzzies.

On Sunday, November 26, the Moon is at first quarter phase and sets at 12:36 AM (Monday).

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December 2017

I am planning to retire from writing this column at the end of 2017. (This is the last one.) I started this in 1997 so it has been 20 years. I wish you all clear skies.

For the comet hunters among you, check out Sky & Telescope, December 2017, p. 42, although it doses’t put on a very good show.

On Sunday, December 3, it is full Moon, so no hunting for faint fuzzies tonight. Instead, direct your attention to the bright ray system centered on Tycho which can be found many places on the Moon. Not only is it a “super” Moon (somewhat closer than usual) but also you have 2 nights to check it out (Saturday and Sunday). See Astronomy Magazine, December 2017, p.37 for an article about it.

On Tuesday, December 5, starting about 6:30 AM, you can see 3 of Jupiter’s moons clustered together on the upper right side of the planet. Only Ganymede is to the lower left. Look low in the south-east for the planet (magnitude -2) and follow the dance till daylight interferes.

On Sunday, December 10 you can catch a shadow on Jupiter. Here is the schedule:
At 4:35 AM Jupiter rises with Io’s shadow already on it.
At 4:54 AM Io itself moves in front of the planet.
At 5:56 AM Astronomical Dawn begins (light appears in the East).
At 6:21 AM Io’s shadow leaves the planet.
At 6:27 AM Nautical Dawn begins (many stars start to fade).
At 6:58 AM Civil Dawn begins (only a few stars are visible).
At 7:04 AM Io itself moves from in front of the planet.
At 7:26 AM the Sun rises.
If you want to see Io’s shadow fall on Jupiter, observe the planet at 6:06 AM on December 17.
If you want to see Europa’s shadow on Jupiter, the planet rises with the shadow having just fallen the planet at 3:50 AM on December 25 (Merry Christmas).

On Sunday, December 10, the Moon is at last quarter phase and rises at 1:15 AM (Monday).

The night of Wednesday, December 13, after midnight (Thursday), you might see some Geminid meteors. The Moon rises at 4:06 AM (Thursday) but is only 12% illuminated. Under dark skies you might see 120 meteors/hour. Look for slow, bright meteors radiating from the direction of the constellation Gemini. My standing offer is dinner for anyone who dresses too warmly. The December issues of Sky & Telescope and Astronomy have articles on p. 48 & 37 respectively.

On Sunday, December 17, it is new Moon, so you have all night to hunt for faint fuzzies.

On Thursday, December 21, it is the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere and you have the longest night of the year.

On Saturday, December 23, you can catch a minimum of Algol for about an hour on either side of 6:00 PM.

On Monday, December 25, Merry Christmas. Also, the Moon is at first quarter phase and sets at 12:23 AM (Tuesday).