Thursday, January 3, 2013
The Ellensburg sky for the week of 1/5/13
Saturday: One Family Affair explored the trials of well-to-do civil engineer and bachelor Bill Davis as he attempted to raise his brother's orphaned children in his luxury New York City apartment (as described on Wikipedia). Another family affair explores how a well-to-do Solar System raises its constituents from birth, through growth, change, and death. Just like Buffy and Jody started off full of energy, planets start out hot and molten. Cissy got wrinkles as she approached middle age; planets become cratered as they age. We watched the TV show “Family Affair” to learn about a nontraditional Manhattan family grew and changed. Astronomers study other planets to learn how the Solar System will evolve. For more information about this Solar System Family Affair, go to http://goo.gl/G029D. Jupiter, the dad of the Solar System family, is about six fists held upright and at arm’s length above due south at 9 p.m.
Sunday: The waning crescent moon is between Saturn and the bright star Spica at 6 a.m. Saturn is about a fist to the upper left and Spica is a little more than a fist to the upper right of the moon. All three are low in the southeastern sky.
Monday: Venus is less than a half a fist above the southeast horizon at 7 a.m. Because Venus is the brightest point of light in the night sky, you should be able to find it despite its proximity to the nearly rising Sun.
Tuesday: You never see a giraffe on the ground in Ellensburg. But you can look for one every night in the sky. The constellation Camelopardalis the giraffe is circumpolar from Ellensburg’s latitude of 47 degrees north meaning it is always above the horizon. Don’t expect to be overwhelmed by the appearance of the stars in Camelopardalis. The brightest star in the constellation appears only about half as bright as the dimmest star in the Big Dipper. However, the actual luminosities of the three brightest stars in Camelopardalis are very high, each at least 3,000 times more luminous than the Sun. Alpha Camelopardalis, a mind boggling 600,000 times more luminous than the Sun, is seven fists above due north at 10 p.m.
Wednesday: Have you ever looked down on the ground and spotted a penny? In Yakima? While you were standing in Ellensburg? If you have, then you may be able to see the star Hamal as more than just a point of light. Hamal, the brightest star in the constellation Aries the ram, has an angular diameter that can be directly measured from Earth. It appears to be the same size as a penny as seen from 37 miles away. (For comparison, the moon is about half the diameter of a penny held at arm’s length.) Hamal is six and a half fists above due south at 7 p.m.
Thursday: The rapper Lil Bow Wow, now known by his adult name, Bow Wow, has had the same new album coming out “soon” for the past two years. The sky has its own lil bow wow dependably coming out every night this winter. Procyon, the brightest star in Canis Minor, the lesser dog, is about three and a half fists above the east-southeast horizon at 10 p.m. As the seventh brightest star in the night sky, Procyon is definitely not “Underrated”.
Friday: Orion stands tall in the southern sky. At 10 p.m., the middle of Orion’s belt is four fists above due south. And talk about belt tightening! Alnilam, the middle star in the belt, is losing mass at a rate of about 100 thousand trillion tons a day. That’s a 1 followed by 17 zeros tons per day.
The positional information in this column about stars and planets is typically accurate for the entire week.