Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 11/5/11

What's up in the sky 11/5/11

Today: Don’t forget to “fall back” tonight. Before you fall back on to your bed, set your clock back one hour to the real time. Daylight savings ends early Sunday morning at 2 a.m. This means one more hour of sky watching at night because the Sun will set one hour earlier. Ben Franklin proposed the idea of “saving daylight” by adjusting our clocks way back in 1784. Daylight savings time was first utilized during World War I as a way to save electricity. After the war, it was abandoned. It was reintroduced during World War II on a year-round basis. From 1945 to 1966, some areas implemented daylight savings and some did not. But, it was not implemented with any uniformity as to when it should start and stop. The Uniform Time Act of 1966 codified the daylight savings rules.

Sunday: Did you look up Henrietta Swan Leavitt and Henry Draper based on last week’s Halloween costume suggestion? Henrietta Swan Leavitt was an 18th and 19th century astronomer who discovered the relationship between the luminosity and brightness fluctuations of a certain type of variable star. This led to a fundamental change in our understanding of the size of the universe. Henry Draper was a pioneer of astrophotography and was the first person to photograph the Orion Nebula. You can become about the one-millionth person to photograph the Orion Nebula it you look two fists held upright and at arm’s length above the east-southeast horizon at 11 p.m. This fuzzy patch in the middle of Orion’s scabbard is about a half a fist to the left of the brightest star in Orion, Rigel.

Monday: The North Taurid meteor shower peaks for the next few late nights and early mornings with the night of the 11th and 12th being the peak of the peak. This is not a prominent shower but it occasionally produces a couple of bright “fireballs”, larger rocks that take a few seconds to burn up in the atmosphere. Meteor showers are named after the constellation from which the meteors appear to originate. These meteors appear to come from a point in Taurus the bull. This point is nearly six fists above the southeast horizon at 11 p.m. You can follow this point throughout the night as it will remain midway between the bright star Aldebaran (pronounced Al-deb’-a-ran) and the open star cluster called the Pleiades. If you miss the peak this week, don’t worry. Taurid meteor showers result in a slight increase on meteor activity from mid-October to the beginning of December.

Tuesday: Jupiter is less than a fist to the lower left of the Moon due southeast at 9 p.m.

Wednesday: While Stonehenge is an ancient burial ground visited by religious people for thousands of years, MIThenge is an 825-foot long hallway on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology visited by the Sun’s rays twice a year. Every year in November and January, the setting Sun lines up with a narrow window at the end of the long hall and the light shines down to the opposite end. This season’s alignment is from November 10-13. For more information, visit of visit MIT.

Thursday: Mars is five and a half fists above the south-southeast horizon at 6 a.m. The star Regulus is about a finger width to the lower right of Mars.

Friday: We wish you a Merry Martinmas. We wish you a Merry Martinmas. We wish you a Merry Martinmas. And a happy Friday. Martinmas is a holiday in many parts of the world commemorating Saint Martin of Tours. He was buried on November 11, 397. What does this have to astronomy? Not much except that the celebration on November 11 often doubles as a cross-quarter day celebration, a day that is halfway between an equinox and a solstice.

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

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