Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 4/16/11

Saturday: Saturn is a fist held out at arm’s length to the upper left of the Moon low in the southeast sky at 8 p.m. You may follow them throughout the night until they set at about 5 a.m. tomorrow morning. And if you can force yourself to stay awake or if you get up before sunrise or stay up very late any night this week, be on the lookout for meteors coming from nearly straight overhead near dawn. The Lyrid meteor shower is active this week.

Sunday: Do you like pop music? You don’t? So, so what. In the first draft of her biggest hit, the singer P!nk wrote “Waiter just took my full moon, and gave it to Jessica Simps”. Sit. Read about the April full Moon which occurs tonight. Some Native American tribes called the April full moon the full pink moon because its arrival coincided with the blooming of wild ground phlox, a pink wild flower.

Monday: Vega is two fists above the northeast horizon at 11 p.m.

Tuesday: The nighttime stars take little more than an instant to rise. The Moon takers about two minutes to rise. That’s absolutely speedy compared to the constellation Virgo which takes four hours to rise. The first star in Virgo rises at 4:30 in the afternoon today. Spica, the brightest star in the constellation, rises at 7:30. By 9 p.m., Spica is a fist and a half above the southeast horizon. The middle section of Virgo will be marked by the planet Saturn for the next few months. Saturn is three fists above the southeast horizon at 9 p.m.

Wednesday: How many of you know your 12 nearest neighbors? I thought so. Why don’t you go out and meet them right now. I’ll wait. Yes, of course bring them cookies. No, not those stale ones you hate.
Are you back already? That means you didn’t really go out and meet your 12 nearest stellar neighbors, did you? Including the Sun, there are 12 stars within 10 light years of Earth. The most well known are the Sun (obviously); Proxima Centauri, the nearest star other than the Sun; Alpha Centauri, a bright binary star visible from the tropics and the Southern Hemisphere; and Sirius, the brightest star in the nighttime sky. Sirius is the largest and most luminous star in our neighborhood. It is one and a half fists above the southwest horizon at 9 p.m.

Thursday: Remember the old saying: April showers bring… meteors. The Lyrid meteor shower is typically active from tonight to April 27. The meteors appear to come from a point to the right of the bright bluish star Vega in the constellation Lyra the lyre. This point is about three fists above the east-northeast horizon at midnight tonight and close to straight over head near dawn. The best time to look is just before dawn since that is when the radiant, or point from which the meteors appear to come, is high in the sky. This year, the light from the waning gibbous Moon will obscure the dimmer meteors. As your Mother might say, dress warm and sit in a comfortable chair for maximum enjoyment. Meteors are tiny rocks that hit the Earth and burn up in the atmosphere. This is typically one of the least interesting major meteor showers of the year with about 10-20 bright meteors per hour. However, it is also one of the most unpredictable. As recently as 1982, there were 90 meteors visible during a single hour. In addition, the Lyrid meteor shower has historical interest because it was one of the first ones observed. Chinese records say “stars fell like rain” in the shower of 687 B.C.

Friday: Venus is less than a fist above the east horizon at 5:30 a.m.

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

No comments: