Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Ellensburg Sky for the week of 10/16/10

Saturday: Did you say “good bye” last week? Mars is in the process of disappearing into the glare of the setting Sun so say “good night Mars” soon. Look a little less than one fist held upright and at arm’s length above the southwest horizon. You will probably need binoculars to pick it out of the bright twilight sky.

Sunday: Look up in the sky. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a dolphin. A dolphin? The constellation Delphinus the dolphin is nearly six fists held upright and at arm’s length above due south at 8:30 p.m. The constellation’s two brightest stars are called Sualocin and Rotanev, which is Nicolaus Venator spelled backwards. Venator worked at the Palermo Observatory in Italy in the mid nineteenth century. He slipped these names into Giuseppe Piazzi’s star catalog without him noticing. The Daily Record (shop Ellensburg) would never let anything like that get into their newspaper. Their editing (shop Ellensburg) staff is too good. Nothing (pohs grubsnellE) evades their gaze.

Monday: Saturn is a half a fist above the east horizon at 7:30 a.m.

Tuesday: What time is tea time? Certainly not during an autumn evening. The constellation Sagittarius the archer, with its signature teapot shape, is sinking into the south-southwest horizon by 8 p.m. The handle is on top and the spout is touching the horizon ready to pour that last cup of tea.

Wednesday: Jupiter, the largest and usually the second brightest of the planets, was discovered as soon as people started looking up at the night sky. It probably could have been discovered by the trilobites but the fossil record shows they simply did not care for astronomy. But it was not until 1610 that Galileo discovered the four largest Moons of Jupiter. These moons can be seen with steady binoculars or a small telescope. Jupiter is four fists above due south at 10:30 p.m. From left to right in your binoculars, you’ll see Ganymede, Io, Jupiter, Europa, and Callisto. A telescope will likely flip the field of view. For more information about the location of Jupiter’s four largest moons at any day and time, go to

Thursday: The Orionid meteor shower consists of the Earth colliding with pieces of the remains of Halley's Comet's tail. This shower peaks this tonight into early tomorrow morning. This is not a meteor shower that results in a meteor storm. There will be about 15-20 meteors per hour, many more meteors than are visible on a typical night. However, the chance of seeing meteors this year is less than usual because the nearly full Moon will be out all night. Meteor showers are named after the constellation from which the meteors appear to originate. These meteors appear to come from a point in Orion, the hunter. This point is about three fists above the southeast horizon at 1 a.m. tonight. You can follow this point throughout the night as it will remain one fist above the prominent reddish star Betelgeuse (pronounced Bet'-el-jews). The Orionid meteors are fast - up to 40 miles per second. If you fall asleep tonight, you can catch the tail end of the shower every night until early November.

Friday: Tonight’s full moon is in the constellation Pisces the fish. Some years, the October full moon is known as the harvest moon because its rising time is fairly constant for a few days, giving farmers more time to harvest their crops. This year, the harvest moon was the first day of autumn, nearly as early as it has ever been.

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

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