Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 11/14/09

Saturday: Imagine Opie and Andy Taylor walking down the dirt path at night to that fishing hole in the sky. (No, that is not a euphemism for death.) They’d probably be looking to catch Pisces, the two fish already conveniently tied together with two ropes. The ropes are connected at the star Alrescha, Arabic for “the cord”. Alrescha is four and a half fists held upright and at arm’s length above due south at 10 p.m. The fish are attached to lines of stars that branch out at one o’clock and three o’clock from Alrescha. By the way, “The Fishing Hole”, The Andy Griffith Show’s theme song was rated the 20th best TV theme song of all time by That’s too low in my opinion.

Sunday: November 13, 2009 – the world ends! Wait, maybe it’s December 21, 2012 when the world will end. Maybe you hope it ends the day before your big project that you haven’t even started is due. All of those dates are equally likely. On November 13, 2009, the movie “2012” comes out. (So, I guess that’s the day good movie making ends.) The movie 2012 is about the supposed end of the world predictions made by the Mayan calendar, Nostradamus….What’s that? “Woof, woof”…. And apparently Jack my dog. But, none of the many reasons for the supposed end make sense. There will be no planetary alignment on December 21, 2012. And, even if there was, the gravitational pull of all of the planets on the Earth would not cause a noticeable effect. There is no planet X streaking towards the Earth for a 12/21/2012 rendezvous. And the Earth’s passage through the galactic plane, another theory, can’t be predicted within a few hundred years, much less a precise day. So plan a fun event for December 22, 2012. The day will be there waiting for you. There is a good article about the 2012 scare at

Monday: The Leonid meteor shower peaks tonight and tomorrow morning. These meteors appear to come from a point in Leo the lion. This point is about one fist above the east-northeast horizon at midnight tonight. You can follow this point throughout the night and into the morning as it will remain about one fist above the bright star Regulus. Assuming the weather cooperates, this should be a good night to see a lot of meteors because the sky will be moonless as the Moon is in the new phase. The Leonid meteors are particles from the tail of Comet Tempel-Tuttle, a comet discovered by Ernst Tempel and Horace Parnell Tuttle around January 1, 1866. Go to to see a picture of Comet Tempel-Tuttle. This year’s shower is expected to be much more active than usual with up to 500 meteors per hour visible throughout the night. As your Mother might say, dress warm and sit in a comfortable chair for maximum enjoyment. If there is anything close to 500 meteors per hour, you’ll want to enjoy it.

Tuesday: Jupiter is two and a half fists above the south horizon at 6 p.m.

Wednesday: Aldebaran, the brightest star in the constellation Taurus the bull, is two and a half fists above due east at 8 p.m.

Thursday: Saturday, November 21, the Nature of Night takes place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Black Hall on the CWU campus. There will be planetarium shows, fun nighttime projects, storytelling, cookies and much more. The event is free. Go to or call 963-2929 for more information. The Center for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education at CWU and various community sponsors work together to put on this event. When you are there, ask about Venus. It is nearly a fist above the southwest horizon at 5:30 p.m. You can even see it in the daytime sky if you know where to look.

Friday: Mars is one fist above the east-northeast horizon at 11 p.m.

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

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