Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Ellensburg WA sky for the week of 2/28/15


Saturday: “The crow rises in the southeast,” said spy number one. “I’m sorry. I don’t recognize that code,” replied spy number two. Spy one exclaimed, “That’s because it’s not a code, you idiot. I’m talking about the constellation Corvus the crow.” This very bad spy movie dialogue is to remind you that Corvus had a very bad life. According to one myth, Corvus brought the god Apollo the news that his girlfriend was seeing someone else. In a classic case of punishing the messenger, Apollo turned the formerly beautifully colored crow black. The box-shaped Corvus is one fist held upright and at arm’s length above the southeast horizon at 10 p.m.

Sunday: Tonight is a great night to look for the Big Dipper. Tomorrow will be a great night to look for the Big Dipper. In fact, every night for many centuries will be great nights to look for the Big Dipper. But the Big Dipper’s shape slowly changes over many, many, many, many centuries. (Have I reached my word count yet?) Tens of thousands of years ago, it didn’t look like a dipper and tens of thousands of years from now, it will no longer look like a dipper. For a short video simulation of the changing Big Dipper, go to http://goo.gl/df1yV. For a look at the current Dipper, face northeast at 8 p.m. The lowest star, Alkaid, is two and a half fists above the horizon.

Monday: Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, is two and a half fists above due south at exactly 8:09 p.m.

Tuesday: Venus is one and a half fists above the west horizon at 7 p.m.

Wednesday: If you ask an astrobiologist for the three most likely places to find evidence of life in the Solar System, other than Earth, they’d probably say Mars, Europa (“Didn’t they sing “The Final Countdown”?”), and Enceladus. Mars makes sense because you know scientists have sent a lot of probes there. Astronomers first discovered strong evidence of a large water ocean on Europa, a moon of Jupiter, in 1989. However, Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons, first piqued astrobiologists’ interest a few years ago then NASA’s Cassini probe discovered jets of water containing organic materials shooting out. Last year, the German space agency started a project called Enceladus Explorer, EnEx for short, to collect sample from deep within Enceladus. For more information on the Enceladus mission, go to http://goo.gl/VPxzs. Mars is one fist above the west horizon at 7 p.m., just below the much brighter Venus. Jupiter and Europa are three and a half fists above the east horizon at 7 p.m. You have to stay up really late or get up early to see Saturn. Saturn and Enceladus are two fists above the south horizon at 6 a.m. By the way, the Swedish group Europe sang “The Final Countdown”. And they were “heading for Venus” in the song, not to the worlds of the outer Solar System.

Thursday: In this busy world, it is important to know what time it is. We have many devises that give us the time. A phone. A computer. A watch. But who has time to build a phone, computer or even a watch. Not you. But everyone has enough time to build a simple Sun Clock. All you need is a pencil, a compass and a print out of the clock template. Go to https://www.exploratorium.edu/science_explorer/sunclock.html for more information.

Friday: Today, the Dawn spacecraft will enter orbit around Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt. Over the next 16 months, Dawn will gather information the former planet, now considered a dwarf planet. That’s right. After Ceres was first discovered on the first day of the 19th century, 1/1/1801, astronomers called it a planet. However, as more objects were discovered in this region of the solar system, they were all called asteroids for their star-like appearance. “Aster” is Greek for star. For more information, including numerous images, go to http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/dawn/main.

The positional information in this column about stars and planets is typically accurate for the entire week. For up to date information about the night sky, go to http://nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov/planner.cfm.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Ellensburg WA sky for the week of 2/21/15

Saturday: Venus and Mars are very close together, one and a half fists held upright and at arm’s length above the west-southwest horizon. How close together, you ask. You could not fit the largest full moon in between them. The full moon subtends an angle of about 0.5 degrees and the two planets are 0.4 degrees apart tonight.

Sunday: If the National Enquirer was around in Galileo’s day, it may have featured the headline: “Saturn has love handles; Opis leaves him for a much hotter starlet”. When Galileo first observed Saturn through a telescope, he reported objects that looked like bulges on either side of Saturn’s midsection. He was actually seeing Saturn’s rings through less than ideal optics. Saturn is two fists above due south at 6 a.m. The star(let) Antares is about a fist to the lower left of Saturn.

Monday: Headline from the tabloids: Earth sends robot to Mars in order to take a selfie. In January 2014, the Mars Curiosity rover took a picture of its night sky that included the Earth and moon. Both would easily be visible to the naked eye for a human standing on Mars. Since you can’t go to Mars, go to http://goo.gl/DqprKF look at the picture.

Tuesday: Mercury will be as far away from the Sun in the sky as it will get this orbital cycle. This "farthest away" point is known as the planet's greatest elongation. Since Mercury is in morning sky, it is west of the Sun and this occurrence is called the greatest western elongation. This morning will be the best morning to observe Mercury for the next few weeks. Mercury is about a half a fist above the east-southeast horizon at 6:15 a.m. Over the next few weeks, Mercury will move toward the Sun in the sky. By mid April, it will be visible in the evening sky.

Wednesday: Did you know you can see stars in the daytime? Of course every smart elementary school child would answer, “the Sun is a star so, of course you can see stars in the daytime.” You, in your aged wisdom would retort, “I said stars, plural, and the Sun is only one star.” Then her even more learned middle school aged sister would note, “You can even see some of the brighter so-called night time stars during the day if you know where to look.” Today is one of those days, if you have binoculars. First, locate the moon high in the southeast sky at 5 p.m. Next, find it with your binoculars. If the moon is on the left hand side of the field of view, the star Aldebaran will be near the center. You may be able to find Aldebaran earlier but 5 p.m. is the best time because the star is high in the sky while the Sun is low in the sky.

Thursday: Avast ye matey. Swab the poop deck. Pirates love astronomy. In fact, the term “poop” in poop deck comes from the French word for stern (poupe) which comes for the Latin word Puppis. Puppis is a constellation that represents the raised stern deck of Argo Navis, the ship used by Jason and the Argonauts in Greek mythology. Argo Nevis was an ancient constellation that is now divided between the constellations Puppis, Vela and Carina. The top of Puppis is about a fist and a half to the left of the bright star Sirius in the south-southwest sky at 10 p.m. Zeta Puppis, the hottest, and thus the bluest, naked eye star in the sky at 40,000 degrees Celsius is near the uppermost point in Puppis.

Friday: I hope you got your sweetie something red for Valentine’s Day two weeks ago. If not, I suggest a nice picture of the Red Valley on Mars. This January, the Mars Express probe took the first high-resolution stereo color image of Tinto Vallis, or Red Valley, the mouth of an ancient water flow on Mars. For more information and many photos of Tinto Vallis, go to http://goo.gl/ptJcr. Mars is one fist above the east-southeast horizon at 11 p.m.


The positional information in this column about stars and planets is typically accurate for the entire week. For up to date information about the night sky, go to http://nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov/planner.cfm.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Ellensburg WA sky for the week of 2/14/15

Saturday: According to Greek mythology, the beautiful princess Andromeda was chained to a rock next to the ocean. Cetus the sea monster was about to devour her in order to punish her family. It seemed that all was lost. But, along came the great warrior Perseus, fresh off his defeat of the evil Gorgon, Medusa. The only similarity between Andromeda and Medusa was that Andromeda caused people to stand still and stare at her beauty while Medusa turned people to stone because of her ugliness. (And, you thought you looked bad in the morning.) Even though Perseus’ standing as the son of King Zeus and the slayer of Medusa was probably enough to win Andromeda under normal circumstances, Andromeda’s impending death-by-sea-monster was not a normal circumstance. So, Perseus drove his sword into the sea monsters neck and killed it. In a little known addendum to the story, Perseus carved “Percy (heart symbol) Andi” in the rock, thus originating the use of the heart symbol as a substitute for the word “love”.
You can find these lovers in the sky this Valentine’s Day. Just remember it is rude to stare – and you never know when you might turn to stone. First, find the Great Square of Pegasus at 7 p.m. between one and a half and three and a half fists held upright and at arm’s length above the west horizon. The lowest star in Andromeda is the top star in the square. This represents Andromeda’s head. Perseus is at her feet, nearly straight overhead. Mirphak, the brightest star in Perseus, is about eight fists above the west horizon. Perseus’ body is represented by the line of stars to the left and right of Mirphak.

Sunday: Venus and Mars are neighbors near the western horizon this week. At 6:30 this evening, Venus is a little more than a fist above the west-southwest horizon. Mars is less than a half a fist to its upper left. As the days go by, Venus will slowly move up from the horizon and Mars will move down to the horizon. By early next week, they will nearly bump into each other in the sky. Of course, they will really be millions of miles apart.

Monday: The first human-made probe to visit a dwarf planet will reach its destination early next month. But it has already started sending back pictures. The Dawn mission will arrive at Ceres on March 6. Ceres is the largest object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It was actually classified as a planet for a few years after it was discovered in 1801. As with any good science mission, Dawn has answered a few questions and raised many more. Since you can’t see Ceres in the night sky – it is now out during the daytime – do to http://goo.gl/hdCRIx for a two second movie of Ceres rotation.

Tuesday: Jupiter is five and a half fists above the southeast horizon at 10 p.m.

Wednesday: “Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday dear Pluto. Happy Birthday to you.” On this day in 1930, Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto, at that time classified as the ninth planet. However, as astronomers started discovering a lot of similar objects in that part of the solar system, they realized that had a classification crisis on their hands. Should everything in this region of the solar system be named a planet? Eventually the International Astronomical Union (IAU) reclassified Pluto and all future Pluto-like objects as dwarf planets. According to his wife, if Mr. Tombaugh were alive today, he maybe disappointed at the reclassification but he’d accept it because, as a scientist, he’d recognize the implications the new naming scheme would have on future discoveries. Besides, noted astronomer Hal Levison, while Tombaugh didn’t discover the ninth planet, he discovered the Kuiper Belt and that’s a whole lot more interesting. The New Horizons probe will reach Pluto July 14, 2015. See http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/ for more information.

Thursday: Saturn is two and a half fists above due south at 6:15 a.m.

Friday: Along with Pluto, Tombaugh discovered numerous asteroids, variable stars, and star clusters. Up until recently, the responsibility of naming all of these objects would have belonged to the International Astronomical Union. But in 2013, the IAU revised their naming rules to let individuals suggest names for certain celestial objects. They are running a contest to name certain objects. For more information, go to http://www.nameexoworlds.org/.


The positional information in this column about stars and planets is typically accurate for the entire week. For up to date information about the night sky, go to http://nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov/planner.cfm.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Ellensburg WA sky for the week of 2/7/15


Saturday: Jupiter is at opposition tonight. No, that doesn’t mean that Jupiter refuses to eat his vegetables. (Please eat your vegetables, children.) Opposition means that Jupiter is on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun. An object is in opposition when it is due south 12 hours after the Sun. When an object is in opposition, it is at its highest point in the sky during the darkest time of the night. A planet in opposition shines brighter and appears larger in a telescope than any other night. And since Jupiter is also the largest planet, it reflects a lot of sunlight. Jupiter is about five fists held upright and at arm’s length above the south-southeast horizon at 11 p.m.

Sunday: The universe contains everything from gigantic galaxy clusters to tiny parts of atoms so it is difficult to visualize all of it on the same scale. Cary and Michael Huang have created an interactive scale model of the universe which allows you to “slide” from a vantage point outside the known universe down to the smallest things ever theorized. To take this trip, go to http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap140112.html.

Monday: You think wintertime weather is bad in Ellensburg. Astronomers have discovered storms and earth-sized clouds on a brown dwarf. These are cool, small stars that are not massive enough to fuse hydrogen atoms and fuse hydrogen. In fact, they are more similar to gas giant planets such as Jupiter that to the Sun. In this context, the discovery of storms similar to the giant Red Spot on Jupiter makes sense. For more information, go to http://goo.gl/jQS3k.

Tuesday: Winter is a good time to see the thick band of the Milky Way galaxy. It arches high in the high in the early evening starting in the southeast by Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. Climbing from Sirius through the "horns" of Taurus high overhead, it drops down toward M-shaped Cassiopeia in the north and the tail of Cygnus, the swan, in the northwest.

Wednesday: Saturn is about two and a half fists above the south horizon at 6:30 a.m.

Thursday: It is often said that Earth is a water world because about 70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water. What would it look like if all that water on the surface were gathered up into a ball? That “ball” would be about 700 km in diameter, less than half the diameter of the Moon. The Astronomy Picture of the day shows us right here http://goo.gl/4wXLM.

Friday: This President’s Day weekend, let’s remember Abraham Lincoln: 16th president, country lawyer, man on the penny, vampire hunter, and astronomer. Vampire hunter? No. Astronomer? Well, maybe not an astronomer, but someone who used observational evidence from the sky to solve a problem. In 1858, Lincoln defended Duff Armstrong, a family friend who was accused of murder. The prosecution thought they had a strong case because their primary witnesses claimed to have observed the killing by the light of the nearly full moon. Let’s listen in on the trial courtesy of the 1939 film, Young Mr. Lincoln.
Lincoln: How’d you see so well?
Witness: I told you it was Moon bright, Mr. Lincoln.
Lincoln: Moon bright.
Witness: Yes.
(Dramatic pause as Lincoln reaches for something)
Lincoln: Look at this. Go on, look at it. It’s the Farmer’s Almanack (sic). You see what it says about the Moon. That the Moon… set at 10:21, 40 minutes before the killing took place. So you see it couldn’t have been Moon bright, could it?
Lincoln used the known information about Moon rising and setting times for August 29, 1858 as evidence in a trial. This is one of the earliest uses of forensic astronomy. You may confirm Lincoln’s findings on the Moon set time by going to http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/RS_OneYear.php, the US Naval Observatory website, and filling out Form A. For more information about Lincoln’s “almanac trial”, go to http://goo.gl/dS56e.

The positional information in this column about stars and planets is typically accurate for the entire week. For up to date information about the night sky, go to http://nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov/planner.cfm.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Ellensburg WA sky for the week of 1/31/15

Saturday: This is the weekend to spend time with the 12s. At 11 pm, look four fists held upright and at arm’s length above the southeast horizon to Leo, the 12th largest constellation. Just to the right of the backwards question mark that represents Leo’s head is Jupiter. Jupiter is the largest planet but Callisto, the 12th largest object in our Solar System, orbits it. Callisto, along with Jupiter’s three other large moons, is visible with a small telescope. At 11:00 tonight, Callisto is to the upper right of Jupiter, about one Jupiter-diameter away. The 12th largest star is PZ Cassiopeiae, a red supergiant with a radius about 1,500 times that of the Suns, is always visible with binoculars. It is circumpolar which means it never sets. It is about three fists above the northwest horizon at 11 p.m. constellation Cassiopeia. You’ll have to wait until morning to see the 12th brightest star. Altair is two fists above the east horizon at 6:30 a.m.

Sunday: Are you going to watch the super bowl tonight? Is the bowl really that super? After all, half the night the bowl is tipped upside down, spilling out all of its contents. But don’t just focus on the functionality of the bowl. Think about how it inspires people all across the world to sit on the green grass and look into the dark blue early evening sky. In Mongolia, participants in the super bowl are known as gods. An Arabian story says the super bowl is a coffin, one that can even hold dying patriots. I encourage you go outside tonight at about 8 p.m., after whatever unimportant thing you have been doing since 3:30 p.m. Look low in the north-northwest sky and watch the super bowl, also known as the Big Dipper, balancing on the end of its handle, proudly displaying its large bowl.

Monday: Tomorrow is Groundhog Day. If Punxsutawney Phil doesn’t see his shadow this morning, he is telling us that he follows the Chinese calendar and that spring starts early. On the Chinese calendar, equinoxes and solstices occur in the middle of their respective seasons. In order for the vernal equinox to occur in the middle of spring, spring must start on February 3 or 4, depending on the year. Thus, if Phil doesn’t see his shadow, legend is that spring will start on February 3 or 4 as on the Chinese calendar. If Phil sees his shadow, he is telling us he agrees with the western calendar and that there will be six more weeks of winter meaning spring will start near March 20.

Tuesday: The very bright planet Venus is one fist above the west-southwest horizon at 6 p.m. Mars is about 100 times less bright and located one fist to the upper left of Venus.

Wednesday: Winter is the best season for finding bright stars. And if you only want to set aside a few minutes, 10 p.m. tonight just might be the best time because the winter hexagon is due south. Starting at the bottom, find Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, two and a half fists above the south horizon. Going clockwise, Procyon (6th brightest star visible from Washington state) is about two and a half fists to the upper left of Sirius. Pollux (12th brightest) is about two and a half fists above Procyon. Capella (4th brightest) is about two and a half fists to the upper right of Procyon and close to straight overhead. Going back to Sirius at the bottom, Rigel (5th brightest) about two and a half fists to the upper right of Sirius. Aldebaran (9th brightest) is about three fists above Rigel. Betelgeuse (7th brightest) is in the center of the hexagon. Adhara (16th brightest) is a little more than a fist below Sirius and Castor (17th brightest) is right above Pollux. That’s nine of the 17 brightest stars visible in the northern United States in one part of the sky.

Thursday: Saturn is a little more than two fists above the south horizon at 6:30 a.m.

Friday: The good news is the days are getting longer and the nights are getting shorter. The better news is the farther north you go in the United States, the longer the days get. Here in Ellensburg, there is one and a half more hours of daylight than on the first day of winter. In the southern part of the US, there is only 35 more minutes of sunlight. On the North Pole, the day length has gone from zero hours to zero hours in the past month and a half. If you’d like to have your own fun with day lengths and other time questions, go to http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/sunrise.html.


The positional information in this column about stars and planets is typically accurate for the entire week. For up to date information about the night sky, go to http://nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov/planner.cfm.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Ellensburg WA sky for the week of 1/24/15


Saturday: One Family Affair explored the trials of well-to-do civil engineer and bachelor Bill Davis as he attempted to raise his brother's orphaned children in his luxury New York City apartment (as described on Wikipedia). Another family affair explores how a well-to-do Solar System raises its constituents from birth, through growth, change, and death. Just like Buffy and Jody started off full of energy, planets start out hot and molten. Cissy got wrinkles as she approached middle age; planets become cratered as they age. We watched the TV show “Family Affair” to learn about a nontraditional Manhattan family grew and changed. Astronomers study other planets to learn how the Solar System will change. For more information about this Solar System Family Affair, go to http://goo.gl/G029D. Jupiter, the dad of the Solar System family, is about two fists held upright and at arm’s length above the eastern horizon at 8 p.m.

Sunday: There are three planets low in the western sky at 6 p.m. The brightest is Venus, a half a fist above the west-southwest horizon. About one and a half fists to the upper left of Venus is Mars. Neptune is on a line between the two, about a half a fist below Mars. You’ll definitely need a pair of binoculars to see it. For most binoculars, when Mars is in the upper left hand portion of your field of view, Neptune is in the lower right.

Monday: A half mile wide asteroid will come “speeding” by the Earth tonight. The word speeding is in quotes because the asteroid will be moving through the sky at two degrees (four full moon diameters) per hour. This is much faster than any other celestial object, but still slow enough to easy to find with binoculars or a small telescope. The best way to positively identify the asteroid, called 2004BL86, is to view the same part of the sky multiple times. The object that moves over an hour will be the asteroid. At 7 p.m., look about one fist to the upper right of Jupiter, which is the bright object one fist above the east horizon. 2004BL86 will be near the brightest star in the constellation. As the hours go by, the asteroid will move toward the middle of the constellation. At 11 p.m., it will be just below the open star cluster called the Beehive Cluster. At midnight, it will be just above the Beehive Cluster. For more information on the asteroid, including a map to help you find it, go to http://goo.gl/jo3It2.

Tuesday: Draco Malfoy makes an appearance in all seven books of the Harry Potter series. Perhaps you’ve heard of these. But, the constellation Draco the dragon makes an appearance in the sky every night. It is a circumpolar constellation as viewed from Ellensburg meaning it never goes below the horizon. The head of the dragon is one fist above due north at 9:30 p.m. Eltanin, the brightest star in the constellation, is at the lower left-hand corner of the trapezoid-shaped head of Draco.

Wednesday: Have you ever mooned a bull? It sounds like something a rodeo clown might do. You can see it done tonight… sort of. The moon is less than a half a fist to the right of the constellation Taurus the Bull, six fists above due south at 7:30 p.m.

Thursday: Let’s review three important sets of three cats. There’s Josie, Valerie, and Melody of Josie and the Pussycats. Felix, Tom, and Sylvester from old time cartoons. And, if you want to get away from the mind-numbing effects of television, there’s Leo the lion, Leo Minor, and Lynx in the night sky. Leo is by far the most prominent of these three constellations. Its brightest star called Regulus is nearly four fists above the east-southeast horizon at 11 p.m. The backwards question mark-shaped head of Leo is above Regulus and the trapezoid-shaped body is to the left of it. Leo Minor consists of a few dim stars right above Leo. Pretty wimpy. The long dim constellation spans from just above Leo Minor to nearly straight overhead. You and fellow stargazers won’t need to wear a long tail or ears for hats to enjoy these stellar cats.

Friday: Are you interested in participating in astronomy research? You don’t need to go back to school. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars getting a fake degree from an online university. The scientists working on the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE, camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter would like your input on which objects they should target for close-up pictures. While you may think the scientists are just trying to build interest in their project by having people look at pretty pictures, there is a real scientific benefit to having many eyes searching for interesting targets. There aren’t enough scientists to carefully inspect all of the low power images. And surprisingly, computers are not nearly as effective as people in making nuanced judgments of images. So, go to http://www.uahirise.org/ and click on the HiWish button. You’ll be on your way to suggesting close-up targets for NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The positional information in this column about stars and planets is typically accurate for the entire week. For up to date information about the night sky, go to http://nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov/planner.cfm.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

What's up in the Ellensburg, WA sky for the week of


Saturday: Who can forget that memorable song by Three Dog Constellations Night, “The sky is black. The stars are white. Together we learn to find the light.” Well, maybe it didn’t go like that. Which is good. Because not all stars are white. Most stars are too dim to notice a color. But, two of the stars in the constellation Orion provide a noticeable contrast with each other. Betelgeuse, five fists held upright and at arm’s length above the south horizon at 10:30 p.m. is a red giant. Rigel, the bright star about two fists to the lower right of Betelgeuse, is a blue giant.
By the way, the three dog constellations are Canis Major, the greater dog, found one and a half fists to the lower left of Orion; Canis Minor, the lesser dog, found two and a half fists to the left of Betelgeuse; and Canes Venatici, the hunting dogs, found low in the northeast sky. Canis Major contains Sirius, the brightest star in the nighttime sky.

Sunday: The brightest planet Venus is a half a fist above the southwest horizon at 5:30 p.m. Mercury is a half a fist to the lower right of Venus.

Monday: Neptune is the dimmest planet in the Solar System but tonight you can use Mars and a pair of binoculars to help you find it. First, use your naked eyes to spot Mars two fists above the southwest horizon. Neptune will be too dim to see. But, when Mars is centered in your binocular field of view, Neptune will be just to the upper right of it. Even if you have a small telescope, you can easily see them both in the same field of view. They are about as far apart from each other in the sky as the quarter phase moon is thick.

Tuesday: Listen, do you want to know a secret? Do you promise not to tell? Whoa oh, oh. The Beatles certainly didn’t write this song about the Barringer meteorite crater in Arizona. Astronomers are studying this 50,000-year-old impact to learn more about our planet’s violent history as well as the physics of impacts throughout the solar system. If you’d like to be let in on some of these secrets, go to http://goo.gl/sqbBe.

Wednesday: Are you looking for a vacation spot close by? One that is not to hot and not too cold? Or one that is “just right”? Two years ago, astronomers discovered that the star Tau Ceti, one of our closest neighbor at 12 light years away, may have five planets. One of those planets orbiting the Sun-like star is in the so-called Goldilocks Zone where the temperature is just right for having liquid water. You’ll want to do some research before you travel there. Tau Ceti is two and a half fists above the south-southwest horizon at 7 p.m. For more information about the discovery, go to http://goo.gl/xcv0dl.

Thursday: You never see a giraffe on the ground in Ellensburg. But you can look for one every night in the sky. The constellation Camelopardalis the giraffe is circumpolar from Ellensburg’s latitude of 47 degrees north meaning it is always above the horizon. Don’t expect to be overwhelmed by the appearance of the stars in Camelopardalis. The brightest star in the constellation appears only about half as bright as the dimmest star in the Big Dipper. However, the actual luminosities of the three brightest stars in Camelopardalis are very high, each at least 3,000 times more luminous than the Sun. Alpha Camelopardalis, a mind boggling 600,000 times more luminous than the Sun, is seven fists above the northern horizon at 9 p.m.

Friday: Jupiter is two fists above the east horizon at 8 p.m.

The positional information in this column about stars and planets is typically accurate for the entire week. For up to date information about the night sky, go to http://nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov/planner.cfm.