Friday, November 11, 2011

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 11/12/11

Saturday: Imagine Opie and Andy Taylor walking down the dirt path at night to that fishing hole in the sky. They’d probably be looking to catch Pisces, the two fish already conveniently tied together with two ropes. The ropes are connected at the star Alrescha, Arabic for “the cord”. Alrescha is four and a half fists held upright and at arm’s length above due south at 10 p.m. The fish are attached to lines of stars that branch out at one o’clock and three o’clock from Alrescha. By the way, “The Fishing Hole”, The Andy Griffith Show’s theme song, was rated the 20th best TV theme song of all time by That’s too low of a rating in my opinion.

Sunday: Saturn is about a half a fist to the upper left of Spica for the next few mornings at 6 a.m. a fist above the east-southeast horizon.

Monday: Hit the road Mercury. And don’t you come back no more, no more. For a few weeks, Mercury has been hitting the road and moving away from the Sun in the sky. Today, Mercury is as far away from the Sun as it will get on the evening half of this cycle. This is known as its greatest eastern elongation. Yet, this distance does not translate into good viewing because Mercury will be very low in the sky. Mercury is less than a half a fist above the southwest horizon at 5:00 p.m., right below the much brighter Venus. Over the next few weeks, Mercury will move toward the Sun in the sky. After it passes in front of the Sun, it will appear in the morning sky by mid- December.

Tuesday: Jupiter is five fists above the southeast horizon at 9 p.m.

Wednesday: Chinese astronomers in 185 A.D. reported a “guest star” that mysteriously appeared in the sky for eight months. By the 1960s, only 1800 years later, astronomers had determined that this was the first recorded supernova. But they could not explain the excessive size of the surrounding nebula, the cloud of gas and dust expelled by the exploding star. Given the age of the supernova and the typical rate of expansion, this supernova remnant should have been smaller. But images from NASA’s Spitzer and Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer telescopes, astronomers discovered that the star exploded in a hollowed-out cavity meaning the material expelled by the star traveled much faster and farther than it would have in a denser region of the galaxy. Go to for more information.

Thursday: The Leonid meteor shower peaks tonight and tomorrow morning. These meteors appear to come from a point in Leo the lion. This point is about one fist above the east-northeast horizon at midnight tonight. You can follow this point throughout the night and into the morning as it will remain about one fist above the bright star Regulus. Even if the weather cooperates, this will not be a great night to see a lot of meteors because the last quarter moon rising at midnight will illuminate the sky. The Leonid meteors are particles from the tail of Comet Tempel-Tuttle, a comet discovered by Ernst Tempel and Horace Parnell Tuttle around January 1, 1866. Go to to see a picture of Comet Tempel-Tuttle. As your Mother might say, dress warm and sit in a comfortable chair for maximum enjoyment. Even if there are only a dozen meteors visible per hour, you’ll want to enjoy it.

Friday: Mars is about a fist to the upper left of the Moon at 6 a.m. in the southern sky.

Tomorrow, the Nature of Night event takes place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Black Hall on the CWU campus. There will be planetarium shows, fun nighttime projects, telescopes, animals, cookies and much more. The event is free. Call 963-2929 or go to for more information. The Center for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education at CWU and various community sponsors work together to put on this event.

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


Anonymous said...

It is something off the ground

Gramma Solo said...

Thanks for these posts; this is where I check when I wonder what I'm looking at.