Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Ellesnburg sky for the week of 8/21/10

Saturday: Sometimes you find a quarter on the ground. Maybe you find a dollar in the lining of your jacket. But how often do you find a galaxy in a well-known part of the sky? The Hubble Space Telescope discovered a face-on spiral galaxy in the Coma Cluster of galaxies about 320 million light years away. This galaxy, called NGC 4911, contains regions of gas and dust as well as glowing newborn star clusters. The Coma Star cluster is in the constellation Coma Berenices, found two and a half fists held upright and at arm’s length above the west horizon at 9 p.m. For more information about this newly discovered galaxy, plus a zoomable image, go to

Sunday: Venus is a half a fist above the west-southwest horizon at 8:45 p.m. Even though it is so low in the sky, it is highly reflective so you should easily be able to find it by the sunlight bouncing off if it. Use bright Venus to find its dimmer neighbors in the sky. Mars is about a finger’s width to the upper right of Venus. Saturn is about a fist and a half to the right of Venus.

Monday: You may have trouble holding in your water at midnight. But not the Big Dipper. The cup of the Big Dipper is facing upward in a water-holding orientation about two fists above the north horizon at midnight.

Tuesday: When the Moon is full, it is difficult to see dim objects in the sky because of the sky glow. But why struggle to find dim objects when there is so much to see on the big, bright object in front of you? The lunar crater called Tycho is best seen during a full Moon. Tycho was formed about 109 million years ago when an asteroid struck the Moon, leaving a crater over 50 miles in diameter and ejected dust trails that radiate out hundreds of miles in all directions. For more lunar highlights, go to, a resource of the Night Sky Network.

Wednesday: Vega, the third brightest star visible from Ellensburg and the entire northern section of the United States, is nearly straight overhead at 9 p.m.

Thursday: The Sun is finally moving out of it period of having few or no sunspots. But while the Sun was inactive, astronomers were studying sunspots on other stars such as Corot-2a, a star that is similar to the Sun but much younger. Astronomers noticed that the brightness drop of Corot-2a was slightly different every time its planet Corot-2b passed in front of it. They thought it should be the same since the same planet was passing in front of it. So, the astronomers concluded the variation in brightness was due to sunspots on Corot-2a. For more information about this, go to

Friday: Jupiter is two fists above the east-southeast horizon at 11 p.m. It is about a fist to the right of the Moon.

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

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