Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 7/24/10

Saturday: The Southern Delta Aquarid meteor shower peaks for the next few nights and early mornings with the greatest concentration of meteors being visible Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Meteor showers are named after the constellation from which the meteors appear to originate. These meteors appear to come from a point in Aquarius near the star Delta Aquarii, also known as Skat. This point is about one and a half fists held upright and at arm’s length above the southeast horizon at 1 am tomorrow morning. You can follow this point throughout the night as it will remain a fist above Fomalhaut, the brightest star in that section of the sky. Unfortunately, the nearly full moon and waning gibbous moon will be out most of the night and obscure the dimmer meteors. As you Mother might say, dress warm and sit in a comfortable chair for maximum enjoyment. Meteors are tiny rocks that hit the Earth and burn up in the atmosphere.

Sunday: Tonight’s full moon is in the constellation Capricornus the sea goat.

Monday: We read a lot about how kids nowadays are heavier than they used to be. You don’t read that about stars… until now. Astronomers from the European Southern Observatory just discovered the most massive stars in the universe using their Very Large Telescope (yes, that’s its real name). These two stars are about 300 times more massive than the Sun or twice as massive as the largest known stars. In addition to being very massive, they are several million times brighter than our Sun. Their brightness compared to the Sun is the same as the Sun’s brightness compared to the full moon. Neither of these stars is visible from Ellensburg. For more information, go to

Tuesday: Speaking of meteor showers, the Perseid meteor shower is NASA’s “Go Observe” object for August. The Perseid meteor shower is typically the most easily visible shower of the year for Northern Hemisphere observers. This year, moonlight will interfere with the dimmer meteors during the peak evenings of August 12 and 13. Luckily, Perseid meteors are visible from about the last week in July until the last week in August so you can start watching the Perseid meteor shower this week. The meteors appear to come from a point just below the W of the constellation Cassiopeia. This point is about two fists above the northeast horizon at 11 p.m. tonight. For more information, go to

Wednesday: Venus is a little less than a fist above the west horizon at 9:30 p.m. Mars and Saturn are a fist to the upper left of Venus. Saturn is the upper and the brighter of the two.

Thursday: Say "Cheese". 159 years ago this month, Vega, in the constellation Lyra the lyre, became the first star ever photographed. The photograph was done at the Harvard Observatory using the daguerreotype process. Vega is the third brightest nighttime star we can see in Ellensburg behind Sirius and Arcturus. Vega is nearly straight overhead at 11:00 tonight.

Friday: Jupiter is a little less than a fist above the east horizon at 11:30 p.m.

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

No comments: