Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 11/8/08

Today: The North Taurid meteor shower peaks for the next few late nights and early mornings with the night of the 12th being the peak of the peak. This is not a prominent shower but it occasionally produces a couple of bright “fireballs”. The moon will not be out for the next few late nights to interfere with your meteor viewing. Meteor showers are named after the constellation from which the meteors appear to originate. These meteors appear to come from a point in Taurus the bull. This point is about six fists held upright and at arm’s length above the southeast horizon at 11 p.m. You can follow this point throughout the night as it will remain midway between the bright star Aldebaran (pronounced Al-deb’-a-ran) and the open star cluster, the Pleiades. If you miss the peak tonight, don’t worry. Taurid meteor showers result in a slight increase on meteor activity from mid-October to the beginning of December.

Sunday: Jupiter is one and a half fists above the southwest horizon at 6 p.m.

Monday: Saturn is about four fists above the southeast horizon at 6 a.m.

Tuesday: We wish you a Merry Martinmas. We wish you a Merry Martinmas. We wish you a Merry Martinmas. And a happy Wednesday. Martinmas is a holiday in many parts of the world commemorating Saint Martin of Tours. He was buried on November 11, 397. What does this have to astronomy? Not much except that the celebration on November 11 often doubles as a cross-quarter day celebration, a day that is halfway between an equinox and a solstice.

Wednesday: Are you thirsty? Enjoy a full frosty one. November’s full moon is called the full frosty moon. Late fall and early winter full moons are very enjoyable because they are so high in the sky. How can that be? The answer relates to the position of the Sun. In the late fall and early winter, the Sun is very low in the sky at noon. Since the full Moon is on the opposite side of the Earth as the Sun, a Sun that is very low in the sky at noon means a full Moon that is very high in the sky. The summertime Sun is high in the sky at noon resulting in a full Moon that is low in the sky. It is almost like the sky is apologizing for a low winter Sun with a high winter full Moon. Tonight’s full frosty moon is the mug, I mean constellation, Aries the ram.

Thursday: The constellation Lepus the hare is right under the feet of Orion. At 11 p.m., the middle of the hare is one fist above the southeast horizon. Rigel, the brightest star in the constellation Orion, is just above the head of the hare.

Friday: Tonight, Venus is as low as it can get with respect to the background stars. It’s pretty low compared to our local horizon, as well. Venus is about a half a fist above the southwest horizon at 5:30 p.m.

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

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