Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 2/11/11

Saturday: According to Greek mythology, the beautiful princess Andromeda was chained to a rock next to the ocean. Cetus the sea monster was about to devour her in order to punish her family. It seemed that all was lost. But, along came the great warrior Perseus, fresh off his defeat of the evil Gorgon, Medusa. The only similarity between Andromeda and Medusa was that Andromeda caused people to stand still and stares at her beauty while Medusa turned people to stone because of her ugliness. (And, you thought you looked bad in the morning.) Even though Perseus’ standing as the son of King Zeus and the slayer of Medusa was probably enough to win Andromeda under normal circumstances, Andromeda’s impending death-by-sea-monster was not a normal circumstance. So, Perseus drove his sword into the sea monsters neck and killed it. In a little known addendum to the story, Perseus carved “Percy (heart symbol) Andi” in the rock, thus originating the use of the heart symbol as a substitute for the word “love”.
You can find these lovers in the sky this Valentine’s Day. Just remember it is rude stare – and you never know when you might turn to stone. First, find the Great Square of Pegasus at 7 p.m. between one and a half and three and a half fists held upright and at arm’s length above the west horizon. The lowest star in Andromeda is the top star in the square. This represents Andromeda’s head. Perseus is at her feet, nearly straight overhead. Mirphak, the brightest star in Perseus is about eight fists above the west horizon. Perseus’ body is represented by the line of stars to the left and right of Mirphak.

Sunday: Venus, the brightest point of light in the sky, is a little more than one fist above the southeast horizon at 6:30 a.m.

Monday: Give your sweetheart a ring for Valentine’s Day. No, no, no. Don’t break the bank. Show your sweetheart Saturn, the ringed planet. It is one fist above the east-southeast horizon at 11 p.m.

Tuesday: February is named for the Roman word februum which means purification. Februa, the Roman festival of ritual purification was held on February 15 according to the Roman lunar calendar. Feb-hand-sanitizer-rua is the soccer mom ritual of pre snack purification. It is held every Saturday during the summer before the orange slices are handed out.

Wednesday: Jupiter is one and a half fists above the west-southwest horizon at 7 p.m.

Thursday: Tonight’s full moon is in the constellation Leo the lion. You may have noticed that your calendar says the full moon is the 18th, not today. Why is that? Because your calendar lies. After all, the calendar says it is your spouse’s birthday and you know that it is not your spouse’s birth…. Oh no! It IS your spouse’s birthday. Run out and buy a gift before it… is… too… late. Oops, too late. You may as well read the rest of the column. The actual moment of the full moon, the time when the Earth is directly between the Moon and the Sun is Friday morning at 12:47 am. Thus, the moon spends most of its “close to full moon” time this evening, the 17th.

Friday: “Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday dear Pluto. Happy Birthday to you.” On this day in 1930, Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto, the solar system object formerly known as a planet.

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

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