Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 11/6/10

Saturday: Don’t forget to “fall back” tonight. Before you fall back on to your bed, set your clock back one hour to the real time. Daylight savings ends early Sunday morning at 2 a.m. This means one more hour of sky watching at night because the Sun will set one hour earlier. Ben Franklin proposed the idea of “saving daylight” by adjusting our clocks way back in 1784. Daylight savings time was first utilized during World War I as a way to save electricity. After the war, it was abandoned. It was reintroduced during World War II on a year-round basis. From 1945 to 1966, some areas implemented daylight savings and some did not. But, it was not implemented with any uniformity as to when it should start and stop. The Uniform Time Act of 1966 codified the daylight savings rules.

Sunday: The North Taurid meteor shower peaks for the next few late nights and early mornings with the night of the 12th being the peak of the peak. This is not a prominent shower but it occasionally produces a couple of bright “fireballs”, larger rocks that take a few seconds to burn up in the atmosphere. 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 nearly six fists above the southeast horizon at 11 p.m. You can follow this point throughout the night as it will remain midway between the bright star Aldebaran (pronounced Al-deb’-a-ran) and the open star cluster, the Pleiades. If you miss the peak this week, don’t worry. Taurid meteor showers result in a slight increase on meteor activity from mid-October to the beginning of December.

Monday: Jupiter is four fists above due south at 8:30 p.m.

Tuesday: Did you look up Caroline Herschel and Clyde Tombaugh based on last week’s Halloween costume suggestion? Caroline Herschel was an 18th and 19th century astronomer who discovered three nebula and eight comets. Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto. They make much better, and more realistic, heroes than Lady Gaga, Ironman, and Christine O’Donnell.

Wednesday: Saturn is two fists above the east-southeast horizon at 6 a.m.

Thursday: We wish you a Merry Martinmas. We wish you a Merry Martinmas. We wish you a Merry Martinmas. And a happy Thursday. Martinmas is a holiday in many parts of the world commemorating Saint Martin of Tours. He was buried on November 11, 397. What does this have to astronomy? Not much except that the celebration on November 11 often doubles as a cross-quarter day celebration, a day that is halfway between an equinox and a solstice.

Friday: The constellation Lepus the hare is right under the feet of Orion. At 11 p.m., the middle of the hare is one fist above the southeast horizon. Rigel, the brightest star in the constellation Orion, is just above the head of the hare.

Wait a minute. We got all the way to the end of the week with no Moon phase summary? How can that be? There are 29.5 days between the same Moon phase in two different cycles. That means about 7.5 days between the phases new, first quarter, full and last quarter. Since a week is seven days, there are some weeks in which none of the main phases occur. This week, the Moon was always in the waxing crescent phase.

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

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