Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 10/30/10

What's up in the sky 10/30/10

Saturday: Dead October flowers lead to November meteor showers. While the Lyonid meteor shower is the big name of the month, the one or two bright fireballs per hour you can see during the typical Southern Taurid meteor shower may make it worth your while to say up. This shower reaches a maximum over the next few nights with a peak on November 5th and 6th. Meteor showers are named after the constellation from which the meteors appear to originate. These meteors appear to come from a point in Taurus the bull. This point is about four fists held upright and at arm’s length above the southeast horizon at 11 p.m. You can follow this point throughout the night as it will remain one fist to the right of the Hyades Cluster with its bright star Aldebaran (pronounced Al-deb’-a-ran). Meteors are tiny rocks that burn up in the atmosphere when the Earth runs into them. These rocks are broken off parts of Comet 2P/Encke.

Sunday: Halloween. The pumpkins. The candy. The children going door-to-door dressed up as their favorite astronomers Caroline Herschel and Clyde Tombaugh. At least they should because Halloween is, in part, an astronomical holiday. Halloween is a “cross-quarter date”, a day approximately midway between an equinox and a solstice. Historically, the Celts of the British Isles used cross-quarter dates as the beginnings of seasons. For the Celts, winter began with Halloween. So when all those little Herschels and Tombaughs come to your door, honor the Celts and give them a wintry treat.

Monday: What sucks? Children with a lollipop. People with a lemon slice in their mouth. Your least favorite sports team. What doesn’t suck? Black holes. They are so massive; they PULL everything into them that gets too close, even light. Come to the CWU Astronomy Club’s First Monday Astronomy Event, learn Black Hole Survival and observe the night sky from 8:00 to 10:00 at Lind Hall 215. Lind Hall is on the corner of Chestnut Street and University Way. There is ample close free parking near Lind Hall at this time of night.

Tuesday: Happy Celtic New Year! Many historians think that this day, known for the festival of Samhain, was the ancient Celtic new year’s day. Samhain, Old Irish for “summer’s end”, was a harvest festival that may have contributed to some of the customs of our current “holiday” of Halloween.

Wednesday: Jupiter is nearly four fists above the south horizon at 9 p.m.

Thursday: The weather may be getting cold. But, NASA still has hot astronomy topics for each month. November’s topic is very hot. Starting at a few thousand degrees Celsius for most of their productive lives and moving on to 100,000 degrees Celsius for new white dwarf stars, stars can definitely heat up a room. (Not as much as an episode of CSI with all of those good looking forensic scientists but close.) Not all stars start at the same temperature or die the same way. The temperature of a star for most of its productive life can tell an astronomer a lot about how the star was formed and how it will end up. Four hundred years ago, Galileo would have never dreamed that the descendants of his telescope would see such a variety of stars, objects that many uninformed people still call little points of white light. For more information about the lives of stars, go to

Friday: Morning time is planet viewing time. At 7 a.m., Saturn is two fists and Venus is a half a fist above the southeast horizon.

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

No comments: