Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 9/4/10

Saturday: Geometry review: part 2. School starts this week so it is time to continue our little geometry review from last week. Did you forget last week’s lesson? Well, go to the litter box, dig out last Saturday’s paper and review it. Then go outside at 9 p.m. with notebook in hand. Ready? A square is a quadrilateral with four sides of equal length and four right angle corners. A good example in the sky is the Great Square, an asterism (group of stars) consisting of three stars from the constellation Pegasus and one star from the constellation Andromeda. At 9 p.m., the bottom of the Great Square is two fists held upright and at arm’s length above due east.

Sunday: There is a lot to see at the Kittitas County Fair. But there is not a lot to see in the sky when you are at the fair because the fair lights, which are fairly bright, obscure most celestial objects. Jupiter is one of the few objects bright enough to be seen. As you are leaving the fair at 10 p.m., look for Jupiter about two fists above the east-southeast horizon. Luckily Galileo didn’t do his observing at the Kittitas County Fair because he would not have been able to see Jupiter’s moons. So what, you say? Galileo’s discovery of the moons of Jupiter provided strong evidence that objects other than the Earth could have satellites providing strong support for a Sun-centered solar system. For more information about Jupiter or observing Jupiter, go to http://astronomy2009.nasa.gov/observe_sep.htm

Monday: Labor Day was the brainchild of labor unions and is dedicated to American workers. The first Labor Day was celebrated in 1882. The Greek mythical hero Hercules probably wished there was a Labor Day to commemorate his work. As punishment for killing his family while he was temporarily insane, he had to perform twelve nearly impossible tasks such as killing monsters or stealing things from deities. Humm. Maybe we shouldn’t commemorate his labors. But we can enjoy his constellation. The keystone asterism representing the body of Hercules is six fists above the west horizon at 10 p.m. For more information about the Labors of Hercules, go to http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/Herakles/labors.html.

Tuesday: The calendar says summer is nearing an end. School starting tomorrow says summer is nearing an end. The summer triangle in the sky begs to differ as it is still high in the sky. Vega, the brightest star in the triangle, is a little bit west of straight overhead at sunset. Deneb is a little bit east of straight overhead and Altair is five fists above the south horizon.

Wednesday: Venus is less than a half a fist above the west-southwest horizon at 8 p.m. Mars is a half a fist to the upper right of Venus and the star Spica is a half a fist due right of Venus.

Thursday: Fomalhaut, the brightest star in the constellation Piscis Austrinus, is one fist above the south-southeast horizon at 11 pm. It is the southernmost bright star visible from Ellensburg.

Friday: The bright star Capella is a half a fist above the north-northwest horizon at 9 p.m.

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

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