Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 11/13/10

Saturday: Imagine Opie and Andy Taylor walking down the dirt path at night to that fishing hole in the sky. (No, that is not a euphemism for death.) They’d probably be looking to catch Pisces, the two fish already conveniently tied together with two ropes. The ropes are connected at the star Alrescha, Arabic for “the cord”. Alrescha is four and a half fists held upright and at arm’s length above due south at 10 p.m. The fish are attached to lines of stars that branch out at one o’clock and three o’clock from Alrescha. By the way, “The Fishing Hole”, The Andy Griffith Show’s theme song was rated the 20th best TV theme song of all time by That’s too low in my opinion.

Sunday: Jupiter is three and a half fists above the south-southeast horizon at 9 p.m.

Monday: Deneb Kaitos, the "tail of the whale," swims through the southern sky tonight (and many other nights, of course). The moderately bright orange star forms the tail of Cetus, the whale. At 9 p.m., it is three and a half fists above the south horizon, about a fist to the left of the much brighter Jupiter.

Tuesday: The Leonid meteor shower peaks tonight and tomorrow morning. These meteors appear to come from a point in Leo the lion. This point is about one fist above the east-northeast horizon at midnight tonight. You can follow this point throughout the night and into the morning as it will remain about one fist above the bright star Regulus. Even if the weather cooperates, this will not be a great night to see a lot of meteors because the sky will be illuminated by the waxing gibbous moon. The Leonid meteors are particles from the tail of Comet Tempel-Tuttle, a comet discovered by Ernst Tempel and Horace Parnell Tuttle around January 1, 1866. Go to to see a picture of Comet Tempel-Tuttle. This year’s shower is expected to be much more active than usual with up to 500 meteors per hour visible throughout the night. As your Mother might say, dress warm and sit in a comfortable chair for maximum enjoyment. Even if there are only a couple dozen meteors visible per hour, you’ll want to enjoy it.

Wednesday: While your family is lining up at 6 a.m. this morning to use the shower, two planets and a bright star are lining up in the southeast sky. Venus, the brightest point of light in the sky, is one fist above the southeast horizon. The star Spica is slightly to the upper right of Venus and Saturn is one and a half fists above Venus.

Thursday: Have you even seen a Black Hole? Neither have scientists. But they have seen the effects of a Black Hole. Black holes have a strong gravitational influence on anything that passes close to them, including light. Cygnus X-1, the first Black Hole candidate ever discovered, is four and a half fists above the west horizon, in the middle of the neck of Cygnus the swan.

Friday: I am guessing that some of you don’t like the line of reasoning from Thursday: that seeing the effects of a Black Hole is good enough to claim there are Black Holes. You have never seen the wind. But, you have seen the effects of the wind. And no Chicago resident doubts the existence of the wind.

Tomorrow, November 20, the Nature of Night takes place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Black Hall on the CWU campus. There will be planetarium shows, fun nighttime projects, storytelling, cookies and much more. The event is free. Call 963-2929 for more information. The Center for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education at CWU and various community sponsors work together to put on this event. When you are there, ask about the safe way to look at the Sun. Even though this is called Nature of Night, without day, there is no night. And without Gladys Knight, there are no Pipps.

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

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