Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 9/10/11

Saturday: The violent death of lots of aliens is called a video game. The violent death of a supergiant star is called a supernova. On August 24, a star in the Pinwheel Galaxy, a mere 21 million light years away, went supernova. This is the closest and brightest supernova in the past 25 years. You’ll need binoculars or a small telescope to see it. First find the Big Dipper handle, about two fists held upright and at arm’s length, above the north-northwest horizon at 11 p.m. The galaxy is about a half a fist above the end star. There is a very helpful map at the bottom of this page

Sunday: Shine on, shine on harvest moon, up in the sky. It’s just like a full moon in January, February, June and July. The only difference is that near the Autumnal Equinox (also known as the first day of fall), the full moon rises near sunset resulting in a full night of light for the harvest. The harvest moon looks like a dull orange color while it is near the horizon because of the dust kicked up from the harvest. The dust scatters the white light reflecting off of the Moon resulting in slightly more of the red and orange components of the white light reaching your eyes. Although the Moon has a dull yellow color whenever it is near the horizon owing to light scattering off of dust and atmospheric particles, the effect is more noticeable for the harvest Moon. Tonight’s full moon, which isn’t completely full until tomorrow at 1:30 a.m., is in the constellation Aquarius the water bearer.

Monday: Science is Central! This week, faculty, staff, and students in the College of the Sciences at CWU will kick off the start of the academic year by hosting a series of evening science lectures and demonstrations geared for all ages. All events are taking place on the CWU Ellensburg campus and all are free. The series kicks off tonight when Ton Cottrell shares photos, stories and thoughts from Northern Alaska from 7:00 – 8:00 pm in Science room 101 followed by a guided tour of the night sky with several telescopes. Check for an event schedule.

Tuesday: In most parts of the country, a mixture of tasty carbon-based material and healthy minerals is called a casserole. In Minnesota, it is called a hot dish. (Uffdah, you betcha!) In space, it is called a supergiant. Antares, a supergiant in the constellation Scorpius, is forging lighter elements into carbon, oxygen, silicon, and iron in its core. It is on the main course table one fist above the southwest horizon at 7:30. Make sure it cools off before you take a bite.

Wednesday: “One world, group hug, love everyone” philosophy: political borders are human-made and can’t be seen from space. Real world, pragmatic discovery: some human-made political borders CAN be seen from space. Since 2003, India has illuminated its border with Pakistan to prevent illegal crossings. In August, astronaut Ron Garan took a picture of the boarder from the International Space Station. For more information, including the photo, go to

Thursday: Jupiter is about a half a fist below the Moon at 10 p.m.

Friday: You can use the position of the Big Dipper as a clock. During the late evening in the autumn, the Big Dipper cup is facing up to hold water. During the late evening in the spring, the Big Dipper cup is facing down to produce those spring showers. The water-holding Big Dipper is one fist above the north horizon at 11 p.m.

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

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