Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 9/11/10

Saturday: Orion's the hunter. Searching for love in these lonely skies again. (Apologies to my favorite 1980s heavy metal band, Dokken.) Orion is such a prominent constellation, there are many myths about it. Nearly all Greco-Roman myths involve Orion getting killed. In one myth, he is accidentally killed by his girlfriend Diana, the goddess of the moon and of hunting. She felt so guilty that she repaid her debt by pulling him across the sky each night in her moon chariot. In another myth, Orion is killed by the bite of Scorpius, the scorpion. Obviously, Orion wants to avoid Scorpius in the night sky so he does not get bit again. That is one story of why Orion sets just as Scorpius rises.
Notice that both of these stories have an element of truth. Orion really does cross the sky each night. Orion really does set as Scorpius rises. Many people think a myth is simply a fake story. Instead, a myth is a story used to communicate a message. Myths always have some truth in them. Try to create your own myth about Orion as you see its belt three and a half fists held upright and at arm’s length above the southeast horizon at 5:30 a.m. The bright reddish star four fists held upright and at arm’s length above the southeast horizon is Betelgeuse (pronounced Bet'-el-jews). The bright bluish star three fists above the south-southeast horizon is Rigel.

Sunday: You can use the position of the Big Dipper as a clock. During the late evening in the autumn, the Big Dipper cup is facing up to hold water. During the late evening in the spring, the Big Dipper cup is facing down to produce those spring showers. The water-holding Big Dipper is one fist above the north horizon at 11 p.m.

Monday: Science is Central! This week, faculty, staff, and students in the College of the Sciences at CWU will kick off the start of the academic year by hosting a series of evening science lectures and demonstrations geared for all ages. All events are taking place on the CWU Ellensburg campus and all are free. The week kicks off tonight with Bruce Palmquist and Michael Braunstein from the Department of Physics presenting a night sky lecture from 6:30 – 7:30 pm in Lind Hall room 215 followed by a guided tour of the night sky with several telescopes. Check for information about events for the rest of the week.

Tuesday: Tonight’s first quarter Moon is in the constellation Ophiuchus (pronounced O-fee-u’-kus) the serpent-bearer. The Sun actually spends more days in line with Ophiuchus than with Scorpius the scorpion making Ophiuchus the thirteenth Zodiac constellation.

Wednesday: Astronomy is a field of science where amateurs can make a significant contribution. Amateur astronomer John Dobson is such a person. He developed a way to make the low-cost, easy-to-use, large aperture telescopes that millions of sky watchers around the world use to study and enjoy the nighttime sky. These devises, called Dobsonian telescopes by everyone but Dobson himself, are the best entry-level telescopes. John Dobson turns 95 years old today.

Thursday: Jupiter is two and a half fists above the southeast horizon at 10 p.m. It is the brightest point of light in the sky at that time and very easy to see. The planet Uranus typically is not easy to find. But this week and next, Uranus is right above Jupiter in the sky. They are less than a pinky width apart in the sky and even close together in binoculars.

Friday: When you look up into the night sky and see all of those stars, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya punk? You would if you looked at the lucky stars in the constellation Aquarius. The two brightest stars are called Sadalmelik, the lucky stars of the king, and Sadalsuud, the luckiest of the lucky. Another star in the constellation is called Sadachbia meaning lucky stars of the tents. Sadalmelik is four fists above the south horizon at 11 p.m. Sadachbia is to the lower left of Sadalmelik. Sadalsuud is three and a half fist above due south at this time.

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

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