Monday, November 14, 2011

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 11/19/11

Saturday: 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. Go to for more information. Wait, don’t go to a computer. Go directly to Black Hall, G-12 on the map found at The Center for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education at CWU and various community sponsors work together to put on this event.

Sunday: You know winter is coming when Orion is visible in the evening sky. It is about a fist above the east-southeast horizon at 9 p.m.

Monday: When you think of space, the first image that comes to mind is a few large, massive bodies surrounded by a lot of empty space. After all, it is called “outer space”, not “outer stuff”. But that so-called empty space is filled powerful radiation and high-speed sub-microscopic particles. Much of this is dangerous to life. However, many planets, including Earth, have a shield against these called a magnetic field. Jupiter’s magnetic field is the strongest of all the planets. Find Jupiter four and a half fists above the southeast horizon at 8 p.m. For more information about magnetic fields, go to

Tuesday: Saturn, Spica, and the waning crescent moon are huddled together in the early morning sky. The Moon is one and a half fists above the southeast horizon. Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo, is a couple of finger widths to the upper left of the Moon. Saturn is less than a half a fist to the upper left of Spica.

Wednesday: Are you thankful that you live in a solar system with multiple planets? You should be. A giant planet like Jupiter cleans up planetary debris that could have collided with Earth and hindered the formation of complex life. Any inhabitants of the planets orbiting Upsilon Andromedae are thankful for this, as well. Upsilon Andromedae, a star in the constellation Andromeda, was the first Sun-like star discovered to have multiple planets orbiting it. So far, all of its planets are giant planets like Jupiter. But, the system is likely to also contain smaller planets. The dim star, but certainly not its planets, is barely visible straight overhead at 9 p.m.

Thursday: Some of us have a lot to be thankful for on Thanksgiving. But, probably not as much as Andromeda had to be thankful for. 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. Her mother Queen Cassiopeia and her father King Cepheus didn’t know what to do. It seemed that all was lost. But, along came Andromeda’s boyfriend, the great warrior Perseus. 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 monster’s neck and killed it. This was the first time in recorded history that a set of parents actually welcomed an uninvited Thanksgiving visit from the boyfriend. Perseus is about five fists above the east-northeast horizon and Andromeda is about seven fists above the east horizon at 7 p.m.

Friday: Are you staying up late Thursday or getting up super early this morning to catch those Black Friday sales? Mars is about a half a fist above the east horizon at midnight. By 5 am, it is four fists above the southeast horizon. If you find Mars this morning, you’ll be doing a lot better than the poor Phobos-Grunt mission. It launched on November 9, only to have its final booster rocket fail. For more (extremely detailed) information, go to

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

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