Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 4/9/11

Saturday: This month is Global Astronomy Month (www.gam-awb.org). Astronomers around the world want to reconnect people with the night sky, thus their slogan: One People, One Sky. For a summary of Global Astronomy Month events, click on “Events” at the top of the right-hand column. The feature event for this week, April 10-16, is Lunar Week. May I suggest OPTICKS, a live audio-video transmission performance between the Earth and the Moon? Amateur astronomers from around the world will bounce radio signals off of the Moon. These signals will be collected by a telescope in The Netherlands and webcast. The event starts tomorrow at 11 a.m., Pacific Daylight Time. For more information about lunar Week, go to http://www.astronomerswithoutborders.org/programs/lunar.html.

Sunday: You probably didn’t know this but several British New Wave bands were really into astronomy. Take the band “Dead or Alive” (please). The original lyrics to their song “You Spin my Round (Like a Record) were thought to be: “ You spin me right round, baby, right round, like the Whirlpool Galaxy, right round, round, round.” (Well, that’s what I thought them to be.) The Whirlpool Galaxy was the first galaxy observed to have a spiral shape. Since then, astronomers have discovered many galaxies, including our own Milky Way Galaxy, have a spiral shape. Go to astronomy2009.nasa.gov/observe_apr.htm for more information about the Whirlpool Galaxy. Go to your small telescope to find the Whirlpool Galaxy in the night sky. It is in the constellation Canes Venatici, the hunting dogs. At 10 p.m., find Alkaid, the end star of the Big Dipper handle, five fists held upright and at arm’s length above the northeast horizon. The Whirlpool Galaxy is two fingers to the upper right of Alkaid.

Monday: Tonight’s first quarter moon is six fists above due south at 8 p.m., midway between the bright stars Pollux above it and Procyon below.

Tuesday: Avast ye matey. Swab the poop deck. Pirates love astronomy. In fact, the term “poop” in poop deck comes from the French word for stern (poupe) which comes for the Latin word Puppis. Puppis is a constellation that represents the raised stern deck of Argo Navis, the ship used by Jason and the Argonauts in Greek mythology. Argo Nevis was an ancient constellation that is now divided between the constellations Puppis, Vela and Carina. The top of Puppis is about a fist and a half to the left of the bright star Sirius in the south-southwest sky at 9 p.m. Rho Puppis, one of the brightest stars in the constellation, is about one and a half fists above the south-southwest horizon at this time.

Wednesday: Venus is a half a fist above the east horizon at 6 a.m.

Thursday: Are you thirsty? Crater the cup is two and half fists above the south-southeast horizon at 10 p.m. Hopefully you are not too thirsty because the cup is nearly tilted on its side. Its opening is pointing toward Saturn and Spica, the brightest objects in that portion of the sky.

Friday: Saturn is three fists above the southeast horizon at 10 p.m., one fist above Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo.

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

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