Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 10/11/08

Today: Halley's Comet returns this month! In the form of little pieces of its tail, that is. The Orionid meteor shower consists of the earth colliding with pieces of the remains of Halley's Comet's tail. This shower peaks on the morning of October 21 but produces meteors from now until early November. Meteor showers are named after the constellation from which the meteors appear to originate. These meteors appear to come from a point in Orion, the hunter. This point is about three fists held upright and at arm’s length above the southeast horizon at 1 a.m. tonight. You can follow this point throughout the night as it will remain one fist above the prominent reddish star Betelgeuse (pronounced Bet'-el-jews). The Orionid meteors are fast - up to 40 miles per second. As you Mother might say, dress warm and sit in a comfortable chair for maximum enjoyment.

Sunday: Saturn is two and a half fists above the east-southeast horizon at 6:30 a.m.

Monday: “Hold your horses! Is that a great square in the sky?” It is more than a great square. It’s THE Great Square of Pegasus. The middle of the Great Square is six and a half fists above due south at 11 p.m. Are you impressed that I used the words “great square” six times in an entry? Great square. Imagine that.

Tuesday: The harvest is over. Animals that have filled themselves up with the excess bounty are wondering around through forests that have lost their leaves. It is a hunter’s paradise. The only thing missing is nighttime lighting. Enter the hunter’s moon. Tonight’s full moon, called the hunter’s moon, is in the constellation Pisces the fish.

Wednesday: Jupiter is two fists above the south horizon at 7 p.m.

Thursday: Mercury was the messenger of the Roman gods because of his speed. The planet Mercury shows this same messenger god-like speed through the sky. In the past two weeks, it has gone from being in-line with the Sun to being visible in the early morning sky. Mercury is about a half a fist above the east horizon at 6:30 a.m.

Friday: When do seven sisters not look like seven sisters? When some of them are occulted by the moon. What? Early this morning, the moon passes between the open star cluster called the Pleiades and Earth, thus blocking or occulting the Pleiades. Another name for the Pleiades is the seven sisters. The upper portion, also known as the spinster sisters, are blocked by the moon at 3 a.m. Look for the rest of the sisters to the lower left of the moon high in the southern sky. By 6:30 a.m., the moon is no longer blocking the Pleiades.

The positional information in this column about stars and any planet except Mercury is accurate for the entire week.

No comments: