Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 9/8/12

Saturday: In the movie The Terminator, Arnold said “Hasta la vista, baby”. Today you can join NASA scientists and many other people around the world in saying “Hasta la vista, Vesta”. The Dawn probe 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 this afternoon. You can also get mission updates throughout the mission on Facebook or Twitter. For more information, go to

Sunday: If you sat up late Saturday night or get up very early this morning, you can say “Hasta la vista, Ceres” for an hour. At about 12:25 this morning, the Moon will pass between the Earth and Ceres. This is called an occultation of Ceres because the word “occult” means to block. At about 1:20 a.m., the Moon will have moved far enough in its orbit such that Ceres will emerge out from behind the dark part of the Moon. You’ll need binoculars or a small telescope to see Ceres.

Monday: Science is Central! This week, faculty, staff, and students in the College of the Sciences at CWU will kick off the start of the academic year by hosting a series of evening science lectures and demonstrations geared for all ages. All events are taking place on the CWU Ellensburg campus and all are free. The series kicks off tonight with CWU professor, astronomy club advisor and columnist extraordinaire Bruce Palmquist at 7:00 – 8:00 pm in Lind Hall 215 on the CWU campus. He’ll be giving an interactive lecture about the probability of finding intelligent life on other planets followed by a guided tour of the night sky with several telescopes. Go to for a map of campus. Parking is free after 4:30 p.m. For more information about the week's events, go to

Tuesday: In most parts of the country, a mixture of tasty carbon-based material and healthy minerals is called a casserole. In Minnesota, it is called a hot dish. (Uffdah, you betcha!) In space, it is called a supergiant. Antares, a supergiant in the constellation Scorpius, is forging lighter elements into carbon, oxygen, silicon, and iron in its core. It is on the main course table one fist above the southwest horizon at 7:30. Make sure it cools off before you take a bite.

Wednesday: Venus is less than a half a fist to the upper left of the Moon at 6 a.m. Jupiter is over six fists above the south-southeast horizon. If you don’t want to get up early to see Jupiter, it is less than a half a fist above the east-northeast horizon at 11 p.m.

Thursday: As Jupiter moves into the evening sky, Mars and Saturn are moving out of the evening sky by moving closer to being in line with the Sun. At 8 p.m., Saturn is half a fist above the west-southwest horizon and Mars is a little less than a fist above the southwest horizon.

Friday: In 1987, the rock group Def Leppard sang “Pour some sugar on me, in the name of love. Pour some sugar on me, come on fire me up”. In 2012, some European astronomers “found some sugar near stars, they were very young. Found some sugar near stars, out where planets formed.” Astronomers observed molecules of glycolaldehyde, a simple form of sugar, in the disk of gas and dust orbiting young binary stars. This is the first time astronomers have found this simple sugar so close to a star indicating that organic molecules can be found in planet-forming regions of stars. 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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