Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 2/6/10

Saturday: Are you scared of snakes? Then don’t look due east at 6:30 p.m. The pentagon-shaped head of Hydra the water snack is about one fist held upright and at arm’s length above the east horizon. And, this is no ordinary water snake. It is the largest constellation in the sky, more than twice the size of Orion. Hydra’s tail does not rise until after midnight.

Sunday: In 1985, the rock group Night Ranger released a song called “Goodbye”. The lyrics from the song may typify our emotions for Jupiter this week as it gets lost in the glare of the setting Sun: “All this could be just a dream so it seems, I was never much good at goodbye.” Say goodbye to Jupiter, a half a fist above the west-southwest horizon at 6 p.m.

Monday: Mars is four fists above the east horizon at 8 p.m. Less than half a fist to the lower right of Mars is the Beehive Cluster, an open star cluster of about 50 stars, all about 570 light years from Earth. The Beehive Cluster is a great object to look at through binoculars because it is big, taking up as much space in the sky as nine full moons.

Tuesday: Hydra is not the only long, squiggly constellation in the sky. Draco the dragon wraps around the cup of the little dipper. The head of the dragon is one fist above due north at 7:30 p.m. Eltanin, the brightest star in the constellation, is at one corner of the trapezoid-shaped head of Draco. Eridanus the river starts next to Rigel, the bright star in the lower right corner of Orion, and meanders down below the south horizon. Rigel is three and a half fists above due south at 7:30 p.m. That means at 7:30 tonight, there are long, squiggly constellations in the lower northern, southern and eastern sky.

Wednesday: The forehead of a lion is about to get smacked by an asteroid. Vesta, the brightest asteroid is moving through the night sky toward the bright star Algieba, located in the head of Leo the lion. First find Regulus, the brightest star in Leo and the bottom of the backwards question mark that represents Leo’s head. It is five fists above the southeast horizon at 11 p.m. Algieba is about a fist to the upper left of Leo, the second brightest star in the region. Put Algieba near the top of your binocular field of view. Vesta will be near the middle. Look to this portion of the sky for the next few nights. Vesta will be the point of light than moves from night to night. For more information about finding Vesta, go to http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/home/80433142.html.

Thursday: If you have a small telescope, or even a good pair of binoculars with a tripod, you can improve on Galileo’s initial discovery of Saturn. And, if Paolo Galluzzi, director of the Museum of History and Science in Florence, is correct, Galileo’s poor eyesight may have influenced his initial judgment of the ringed planet. Galileo thought that Saturn had an inflated side and not spherical. British and Italian scientists want to exhume Galileo’s body to test his DNA to determine the extent of his vision problems. Find Saturn using your good eyes nearly two fists above the east-southeast at 10 p.m.

Friday: Saturn is a little more than one fist above the east horizon at 10 p.m.

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

No comments: