Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Ellensburg Sky for the week of 9/1/12

Saturday: Geometry review: part 3. School starts this week so it is time to continue our little geometry review from last week. Did you forget last week’s lesson? Well, go to the litter box, dig out last Saturday’s paper and review it. Then go outside at 9 p.m. with notebook in hand. Ready? A square is a quadrilateral with four sides of equal length and four right angle corners. A good example in the sky is the Great Square, an asterism (group of stars) consisting of three stars from the constellation Pegasus and one star from the constellation Andromeda. At 9 p.m., the bottom of the Great Square is two fists held upright and at arm’s length above due east.

Sunday: There is a lot to see at the Kittitas County Fair. But there is not a lot to see in the sky when you are at the fair because the fair lights, which are fairly bright, obscure most celestial objects. The bluish star Vega is one of the few objects bright enough to be seen. As you are finishing your rides at 10 p.m., look for Vega nearly straight overhead.

Monday: Labor Day was the brainchild of labor unions and is dedicated to American workers. The first Labor Day was celebrated in 1882. The Greek mythical hero Hercules probably wished there was a Labor Day to commemorate his work. As punishment for killing his family while he was temporarily insane, he had to perform twelve nearly impossible tasks such as killing monsters or stealing things from deities. Humm. Maybe we shouldn’t commemorate his labors. But we can enjoy his constellation. The keystone asterism representing the body of Hercules is six fists above the west horizon at 10 p.m. For more information about the Labors of Hercules, go to

Tuesday: Saturn is one fist above the west-southwest horizon and about a half a fist above Spica. Mars is one fist to the left of Saturn.

Wednesday: The calendar says summer is nearing an end. School starting today says summer is nearing an end. The summer triangle in the sky begs to differ as it is still high in the sky. Vega, the brightest star in the triangle, is a little bit west of straight overhead at sunset. Deneb is a little bit east of straight overhead and Altair is five fists above the south horizon.

Thursday: Jupiter rises at about 11:30 p.m. and is about a half a fist above the northeast horizon at midnight. By 6 a.m., Jupiter is six fists above the southeast horizon. At this time, Venus is three fists above the east horizon.

Friday: In the movie The Terminator, Arnold said “Hasta la vista, baby”. Tomorrow you can join NASA scientists and many other people around the world in saying “Hasta la vista, Vesta”. The probe known as Dawn has studied the asteroid Vesta for the past year. Soon it will head over to the dwarf planet Ceres. Before it goes, Dawn scientists and engineers will host a Google+ Hangout from noon-2:00 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time. You can also get mission updates on Facebook or Twitter. For more information, go to

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

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