Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 4/4/09

Saturday: Some people in town today for the Yakima River Canyon Marathon may be looking for a little running inspiration. While nothing can take the place of a 20 mile long run for marathon preparation (I know), certain objects in the night sky are inspiring. In the Bible, Job specifically mentions the star Arcturus, or the bear keeper, to his friend as a sign of God's majesty. He describes God as that "Which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers (constellations) of the south" (Job 9:9, King James Version). Whatever your religious beliefs, it is clear that Job was impressed with this very bright star. See the star that inspired Job nearly three fists held upright and at arm’s length above due east at 10 p.m.

Sunday: Vega, the brightest star in the constellation Lyra is one fist above the northeast horizon at 10:30 p.m.

Monday: Saturn is about a half a fist above the moon at 10 p.m.

Tuesday: 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 9 p.m. Rho Puppis, one of the brightest stars in the constellation, is about one and a half fists above the south horizon at this time.

Wednesday: Jupiter is one fist above the southeast horizon at 5:30 a.m. Set your alarm.

Thursday: Do you like pop music? You don’t? So, so what. In the first draft of a song on her latest album “Funhouse”, the singer P!nk wrote “Waiter just took my full moon, and gave it to Jessica Simps”. Coincidence? I think not. Some Native American tribes called the April full moon the full pink moon because its arrival coincided with the blooming of wild ground phlox, a pink wild flower. Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo, must like P!nk because it is about a half a fist above the moon at 10 p.m.

Friday: Orion, the great constellation of winter, is sinking into the western horizon. The belt of Orion is two fists above the southwest horizon at 9 p.m. By the end of the month, Orion will be nearly lost in the evening twilight.

The positional information in this column about stars and planets is typically accurate for the entire week.

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