Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 5/9/10

Saturday: Say good bye to the nice doggy. “Good bye doggy. We’ll see you in a few weeks in the morning.” Sirius, the Dog Star, is less than a half a fist held upright and at arm’s length above the southeast horizon at 9 p.m. As the Earth revolves around the Sun, different groups of stars are in line behind the Sun. Soon Sirius and the rest of the constellation Canis Major will be lost in the glare of the Sun. As the Earth continues its revolution, those constellations behind the Sun move into the early morning sky.

Sunday: Jupiter is a half a fist to the lower right of the moon. They are about a fist above the east horizon at 5 a.m. That’s right. You have to get up early to see the morning sky objects in the mid to late spring and summer.

Monday: Give me an “M”. Give me a “3”. What does that spell? “M3.” “Big deal,” you say. It was a big deal to French comet hunter Charles Messier (pronounced messy a). M3 was the 3rd comet look-alike that Messier catalogued in the late 1700s. M3 is a globular cluster, a cluster of over 100,000 stars that is 32,000 light years away. It is too dim to be seen with the naked eye but is fairly easy find with binoculars. First find Arcturus five and a half fists above the southeast horizon at 10 p.m. (See Wednesday’s entry to learn how to find Arcturus.) Move your binoculars up a little so two stars of nearly identical brightness are in your field of view. When the top star is in the lower left part of your field of view, there should be a fuzzy patch near the center of your field of view. This is M3.

Tuesday: Mars is four and a half fists above the west-southwest horizon at 10 p.m.

Wednesday: This is a good time of the year to find the Big Dipper. It is nearly straight overhead at 10 p.m. The cup is to the west and the handle is to the east. You can always use the Big Dipper to find some other bright stars. First, follow the curve, or arc, of the Big Dipper down three fists into the southern sky. This is the bright star, Arcturus, the second brightest nighttime star we can see in Ellensburg. Next, continue on a straight line, or spike, another three fists down toward the south horizon to the star Spica. Spica is the tenth brightest nighttime star we can see in Ellensburg. You now know how to use the Big Dipper handle to “arc” to Arcturus and “spike” to Spica.

Thursday: Tonight’s Moon is new. Don’t bother looking for it. The new moon is the phase where the Moon is directly between the Earth and the Sun. Hence the side of the Moon facing Earth is not receiving any sunlight and cannot be seen. The term “new” comes from the moon seeming to be reborn with light every lunar cycle.

Friday: Saturn is four and a half fists above the south horizon at 10 p.m.

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

No comments: