Wednesday, November 14, 2012
The Ellensburg sky for the week of 11/17/12
Saturday: Are you disappointed because you are not going anywhere for Thanksgiving? Why not take a (virtual) trip to outer space using Google’s new visualization tool called 100,000 Stars. It shows the stars in our neighborhood in a very good simulation of 3-D. The Sun is initially at the center. If you zoom in, you can click on neighboring stars and learn more about them. For more information and a link to the tool, go to http://goo.gl/hg6Oc.
Sunday: You know winter is coming when Orion is visible in the evening sky. It is about a fist held upright and at arm’s length above the east-southeast horizon at 9 p.m.
Monday: When you think of space, the first image that comes to mind is a few large, massive bodies surrounded by a lot of empty space. After all, it is called “outer space”, not “outer stuff”. But that so-called empty space is filled with powerful radiation and high-speed sub-microscopic particles. Much of this is dangerous to life. However, many planets, including Earth, have a shield against radiation and particles called a magnetic field. Jupiter’s magnetic field is the strongest of all the planets. Find Jupiter three fists above the east horizon at 8 p.m. For more information about magnetic fields, go to http://goo.gl/OYShj.
Tuesday: The first quarter moon is in the constellation Capricornus the sea goat. It is three and a half fists above the south horizon at 6 p.m. You may be having trouble finding Capricornus because it is the second dimmest constellation in the Zodiac.
Wednesday: Are you thankful that you live in a solar system with multiple planets? You should be. A giant planet like Jupiter cleans up planetary debris that could have collided with Earth and hindered the formation of complex life. Any inhabitants of the planets orbiting Upsilon Andromedae are thankful for this, as well. Upsilon Andromedae, a star in the constellation Andromeda, was the first Sun-like star discovered to have multiple planets orbiting it. So far, all of its planets are giant planets like Jupiter. But, the system is likely to also contain smaller planets. The dim star, but certainly not its planets, is barely visible straight overhead at 9 p.m.
Thursday: Some of us have a lot to be thankful for on Thanksgiving. But, probably not as much as Andromeda had to be thankful for. According to Greek mythology, the beautiful princess Andromeda was chained to a rock next to the ocean. Cetus the sea monster was about to devour her in order to punish her family. Her mother Queen Cassiopeia and her father King Cepheus didn’t know what to do. It seemed that all was lost. But, along came Andromeda’s boyfriend, the great warrior Perseus. Even though Perseus’ standing as the son of King Zeus and the slayer of Medusa was probably enough to win Andromeda under normal circumstances, Andromeda’s impending death-by-sea-monster was not a normal circumstance. So, Perseus drove his sword into the sea monster’s neck and killed it. This was the first time in recorded history that a set of parents actually welcomed an uninvited Thanksgiving visit from the boyfriend. Perseus is about five fists above the east-northeast horizon and Andromeda is about seven fists above the east horizon at 7 p.m.
Friday: Venus is a little more than one fist above the east-southeast horizon at 6 a.m. Saturn is to the lower left of Venus, about a fist above the horizon.
The positional information in this column about stars and planets is typically accurate for the entire week.