Friday, November 25, 2011

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 11/26/11

What's up in the sky 11/26/11

Today: Venus is less than a half a fist to the left of the 2-day-old Moon, just above the southwest horizon at 5 p.m. Tomorrow night at this time, Venus will be in nearly the same place but the Moon will have moved up and to the left.

Sunday: Most constellations don’t look like the object their name refers to. Most constellations don’t have such a simple to object to emulate as Triangulum. As you probably guessed, Triangulum is shaped like a princess. Wait…. Just a second…. I read my book wrong. Triangulum is shaped like a thin isosceles triangle. Mothallah is the only named star in the constellation. In Latin this star is called Caput Trianguli, the head of the triangle. Triangulum is seven fists held upright and at arm’s length above the south horizon at 9 p.m. It is pointing down and to the right with Mothallah being the southernmost star at this time of night. The Triangulum Galaxy can be seen with binoculars about a half a fist to the right of Mothallah.

Monday: Have you been shopping all weekend? Do you need an evening sky break? You deserve a big reward so make it a double. A Double Cluster, that is. The Double Cluster, also known as h and Chi Persei, consists of two young open star clusters in the constellation Perseus. Of course, young is a relative term as these clusters are about 13 million years old. Each cluster is spread out over an area about the same size as the full moon. To the naked eye, the Double Cluster shines with a steady, fuzzy glow. Binoculars resolve dozens of individual stars in the clusters. The Double Cluster is six and a half fists above the northeast horizon at 7 p.m., about a fist below the sideways “W” of Cassiopeia.

Tuesday: Jupiter is five fists above the south horizon at 10 p.m.

Wednesday: Do you like to look in a nursery and say “it’s a boy” or “it’s a girl”? Not me. I say, “It’s a star”. Of course, I like looking into a stellar nursery – a star forming region such as the Orion Nebula in the middle of Orion’s sword holder. The Orion Nebula looks like a fuzzy patch to the naked eye. Binoculars reveal a nebula, or region of gas and dust, that is 30 light years across. The center of the nebula contains four hot “baby” stars called the Trapezium. These hot stars emit the ultraviolet radiation that causes the Nebula’s gas to glow. The Orion Nebula is three fists above the southeast horizon at 11 p.m.

Thursday: Have you even seen a Black Hole? Neither have scientists. But they have seen the effects of a Black Hole. Black holes have a strong gravitational influence on anything that passes close to them, including light. Cygnus X-1, the first Black Hole candidate ever discovered, is four and a half fists above the west horizon, in the middle of the neck of Cygnus the swan.

Friday: Finally. You can see Mars in the night sky and still get to bed before midnight. Mars is a half a fist above the east horizon at 11:57 p.m. Now, quick, run off to bed.

I am guessing that some of you don’t like the line of reasoning from Thursday: that seeing the effects of a Black Hole is good enough to claim there are Black Holes. You have never seen the wind. But, you have seen the effects of the wind. And no Ellensburg resident doubts the existence of the wind.

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

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