Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 11/10/12

Saturday: The Nature of Night event takes place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Black Hall on the CWU campus. There will be planetarium shows, fun nighttime projects, telescopes, animals, cookies and much more. Have you ever wanted to meat an owl? You can at this event. The event is free. Go to for more information. Wait, don’t go to a computer. Go directly to Black Hall, G-12 on the map found at The Center for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education at CWU and various community sponsors work together to put on this event.

Sunday: 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.

Monday: As one planet sets at 6 p.m., another rises. Mars is less than a half a fist above the southwest horizon while Jupiter is less than a half a fist above the east-northeast horizon. By 9 p.m., Jupiter is more than three fists above the east horizon.

Tuesday: In 1981, the well-known astronomy rock group Blondie released The Tide is High in two versions: the radio version and the astronomy version. In the astronomy version, Debbie Harry sang: “The tide is high ‘cause the moon is new. Higher still when the moon’s close, too.” Tonight's moon is new. The new moon is the phase where the Moon is directly between the Earth and the Sun. That means the moon and Sun are both stretching the Earth in the same direction causing the ocean water in line with the Sun and moon to be pulled upward. In addition, the moon is at perigee early tomorrow morning. Peri- means close and –gee refers to the Earth so this is the day of the month when the moon is closest to the Earth. This accentuates the upward pull on the water and makes the tides really high. Blondie hoped to release a third version titled “The Tide is Really High”. But, the record label finally said, “Enough is enough.”

Wednesday: Imagine Opie and Andy Taylor walking down the dirt path at night to that fishing hole in the sky. They’d probably be looking to catch Pisces, the two fish already conveniently tied together with two ropes. The ropes are connected at the star Alrescha, Arabic for “the cord”. Alrescha is four and a half fists above due south at 10:30 p.m. The fish are attached to lines of stars that branch out at one o’clock and three o’clock from Alrescha. By the way, “The Fishing Hole”, The Andy Griffith Show’s theme song, was rated the 20th best TV theme song of all time by That’s too low of a rating in my opinion.

Thursday: At 6 a.m., the very bright planet Venus is one and a half fists above the east-southeast horizon and the mush dimmer planet Saturn is a fist to the lower left of it.

Friday: The Leonid meteor shower peaks tonight and tomorrow morning. These meteors appear to come from a point in Leo the lion. This point is about one fist above the east-northeast horizon at midnight tonight. You can follow this point throughout the night and into the morning as it will remain about one fist above the bright star Regulus. If the weather cooperates, this could be a great night to see a lot of meteors because the moon sets before midnight. That means the meteors will be moving through a very dark sky. The Leonid meteors are particles from the tail of Comet Tempel-Tuttle, a comet discovered by Ernst Tempel and Horace Parnell Tuttle around January 1, 1866. Go to to see a picture of Comet Tempel-Tuttle. As your Mother might say, dress warm and sit in a comfortable chair for maximum enjoyment. Even if there are only a dozen meteors visible per hour, you’ll want to enjoy it.

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

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