Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 6/12/10

Have you bought your favorite college graduate a graduation gift yet? Why not get her or him a star? I don’t mean from one of those organizations that offers to “register the name of YOUR star with the U.S. Patent Office”. No company owns the right to name stars after people. Besides, the stars those companies “name” are so dim you can’t find them. In this column, I’ll pick a constellation and representative star for each of the four colleges at a typical university. Then, I’ll briefly tell the story of the constellation and relate that story to the aspect of public service graduates from that college are uniquely qualified to engage in. Just like a couple can have “their” song, your favorite college graduate can have her or his star.

Today: Just as gyms and stadiums have been crowded with smart people for many evenings for the past few weeks, the eastern sky will crowded with bright planets for the next few weeks. Tonight at 10 p.m., right as your graduation party is getting started, you can see Venus, the brightest planet, more than one fist held upright and at arm’s length above the west-northwest horizon. Three fists above the west-southwest horizon, you’ll see the planet Mars to the upper left of the star Regulus. They are about the same brightness as each other. Finally, Saturn is three and a half fists above the southwest horizon. Over the next few weeks, these planets will move towards each other in the sky.

Sunday: College of Arts and Humanities: You are the people who interpret the world in unique ways. Then, you share those ways with others. According to Greek mythology, Orpheus charmed everyone he met when he played the lyre or harp. After his wife died tragically, he journeyed to the underworld to charm its inhabitants in an effort to win his wife back to the living world. Your service reminder: use your talent to bring joy to others. The constellation Lyra and its bright star Vega should remind you of the power of the arts. Vega is five fists held upright and at arm’s length above the southwest horizon at 11 p.m.

Monday: What’s better than waking up to a new job offer? Waking up to a comet. Well, maybe not better but still pretty interesting. Comet C/2009 R1, also known as McNaught, is visible in the northeast sky at 4 a.m. First find Mirphak two and a half fists above the northeast horizon. Comet C/2009 R1 will be about a half a fist below Mirphak. You may need binoculars to see it. However since this is the first time Comet C/2009 R1 has entered the inner Solar System, its maximum brightness is difficult to predict.

Tuesday: College of Business. You are the future movers and shakers. The future CEOs. The future big donors to the university. Auriga represented a king of Athens who happened to be mobility impaired. Instead of sitting around waiting for others to transport him, he took the initiative to invent the four-wheeled chariot. He solved a problem for a special need. Your service reminder: address the problems of those in the most need. To remind you of that, look to the constellation Auriga. Its bright star Capella is about one fist above the north horizon at 11 p.m.

Wednesday: College of Education and Professional Studies. You are the teachers. The craftspeople. The facilitators of learning in a diverse world. Bootes, the herdsman, was such a person. Bootes’ job was to guide the northern constellations to the feeding place and the watering hole. He and his dogs were especially in charge of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, the greater and lesser bears. Your service reminder: guide others to a better place in life. Look to the constellation Bootes and its bright star Arcturus to remind you of this. Arcturus is six fists above the southwest horizon at 11 p.m.

Thursday: College of the Sciences. You are the people who will systematically study how the world works. Agriculture is an important scientific application. Each year, farmers must use the findings of science to be successful. Who better to represent the College of the Sciences than Virgo, the goddess of the harvest? Virgo looms large in the sky holding an ear of wheat in her hand. Your service reminder: study the practical aspects of the scientific world. The ear of wheat, and your service reminder, is represented by the bright star Spica. Spica is two and a half fists above the southwest horizon at 11 p.m.

Friday: Tonight’s first quarter Moon is in the constellation Virgo, about a fist below Saturn at 10 p.m.

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

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