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Autumn Skies


Autumn is a wonderful time to observe our Western Slope Skies.   While the temperatures are not bitter cold, the nights are getting longer.

Here in Western Colorado, the Sun sets about 5 p.m. for most of November.  In addition, you can see many objects that are only visible in the evening in autumn and winter. 

If you are ambitious, observe the Leonid meteor shower on the morning of November 17th.  The best times will be between midnight and sunrise.  Meteor showers are named for the constellation from which the meteors appear to emanate.  The Leonids come from the constellation Leo the Lion, which can be found in the eastern sky. 

If you can find the Big Dipper, imagine a hole in the bottom of the bowl.  The water will pour out on to Leo’s back.  The easiest way to observe meteors is to lie down with a warm blanket and look overhead.

Since you are already accustomed to rising early, consider getting up about 6 a.m. during the last week in November and look to the southeast.  You will see Venus and Saturn close together.  Venus is MUCH brighter than Saturn.  They will be closest on November 27th, when the separation will be only slightly greater than the diameter of the Moon.

Orion is one of the most recognizable constellations in the sky.  Orion rises about 9 p.m. in mid-November and about 7 p.m. in mid-December.  The Great Orion Nebula is easily visible to the naked eye.  Find the three stars that make Orion’s Belt. Now look for the three stars to the south that are Orion’s sword. The fuzzy star in the middle is the nebula.  Try binoculars on the nebula, a very active star forming region.  Glowing gases make the Orion Nebula bright, and these gases and associated dust are condensing to form new stars. 

Jupiter is in the evening sky after spending the past few months in the morning sky.  Tune in to Western Slope Skies in the coming weeks for more on Jupiter.

Western Slope Skies is produced by members of the Black Canyon Astronomical Society.