Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Ellensburg Sky for the week of 4/7/12

Saturday: This month is Global Astronomy Month ( Astronomers around the world want to reconnect people with the night sky, thus their slogan: One People, One Sky. For a summary of Global Astronomy Month events, click on “Events” at the middle of the right-hand column. One of the feature events for this week is a video entitled “Space Trip” featuring new works by the Austrian artist Thomas Riess. His work is abstract yet there is a certain familiarity to it. Go to either today or tomorrow to read more about his work and for a link to the video.

Sunday: The Big Dipper is nearly straight overhead at 11 p.m., spilling its contents all over the north horizon.

Monday: On March 31, over 600 people ran a real road marathon from Ellensburg to Selah. Today at 1 p.m. Pacific Daylight time there will be a virtual Messier Marathon. In a road marathon, you run far and look at the backs of the people ahead of you. In a Messier Marathon, you look at objects that are far away. The Messier Object Catalogue consists of 110 fuzzy objects that were difficult to distinguish from comets in late 18th century telescopes. These can be a challenge to find on your own. That’s why you should participate in the virtual marathon at Astronomers on the nighttime side of the Earth will point their telescope at the Messier objects and stream the images live in the internet.

Tuesday: Antares is a half a fist to the lower right of the Moon at 5 a.m.

Wednesday: You probably didn’t know this but several British New Wave bands were really into astronomy. Take the band “Dead or Alive” (please). The original lyrics to their song “You Spin my Round (Like a Record) were thought to be: “ You spin me right round, baby, right round, like the Whirlpool Galaxy, right round, round, round.” (Well, that’s what I thought them to be.) The Whirlpool Galaxy was the first galaxy observed to have a spiral shape. Since then, astronomers have discovered many galaxies, including our own Milky Way Galaxy, have a spiral shape. Go to for more information about the Whirlpool Galaxy. Go to your small telescope to find the Whirlpool Galaxy in the night sky. It is in the constellation Canes Venatici, the hunting dogs. At 10 p.m., find Alkaid, the end star of the Big Dipper handle, five fists held upright and at arm’s length above the northeast horizon. The Whirlpool Galaxy is two fingers to the upper right of Alkaid.

Thursday: Mars is five and a half fists above the south horizon and Saturn is two fists above the southeast horizon at 10 p.m.

Friday: If Friday the 13th is supposed to be unlucky, then this is your unlucky year. There are three Fridays that fall on the 13th this year! And they occur 13 weeks apart! And the government is charging an extra $13 tax those Fridays! Okay, I made up that last one. But I’m not making up that Aldebaran is the 13th brightest star in the nighttime sky. At 9 p.m. tonight, it is about a fist to the lower left of Venus and two fists above due west. At this time, Jupiter is about a half a fist above the west-northwest horizon.

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

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