Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 3/23/13

The night sky above.
Shows our past and our future.
We’re made of star stuff.

Saturday: There are two comets visible in the night sky of you are blessed with clear skies, an open west-northwest horizon and lots of frequent flier miles to use. The easiest one to find is Comet PANSTARRS, names for the acronym of the project that found it. While it reached peak brightness two weeks ago, you can find it 30 minutes after sunset about a fist held upright and at arm’s length above the west-northwest horizon. For more information on finding Comet PANSTARRS, go to Comet Lemmon is currently visible only in the southern Hemisphere. Over the next few weeks, it will move into the northern hemisphere sky but get dimmer, remaining an object to view through binoculars. But just because you can’t see Comet Lemmon doesn’t mean you can’t learn about it. See for information and a finder chart for Comet Lemmon.

Sunday: Jupiter is five fists above the west-southwest horizon at 8 p.m.

Monday: Saturn is about a half a fist above the east-southeast horizon at 11 p.m. By 6 a.m. tomorrow, it has moved all the way across the sky to be two fists above the southwest horizon.

Tuesday: Tonight’s full moon is in the constellation Leo the lion. While we may refer to the moon tonight by the boring title, “a full moon in March”, Native Americans in the eastern United States called this moon the Full Worm Moon. By March, the temperature has increased enough so the ground starts to thaw and earthworms make their first appearance. Earthworms attract birds. Northern tribes thought of the bird connection when they referred to the March full moon as the Full Crow Moon. Tribes in parts of the country with maple trees call this full moon the Full Sap Moon. For more full moon names, go to

Wednesday: Watch the bright star Spica as it chases the moon across the sky tonight. The overall motion of the two objects is due to the rotation of the Earth. But since the moon orbits the earth and is close to the earth, its actual motion can be detected. It is one of the few objects that we can see move in the sky over a matter of hours. It goes from being a half a fist ahead of Spica at 10 pm tonight to about a thumb width ahead at 6 a.m. tomorrow.

Thursday: Two weeks ago, I asked you to watch the bright star Deneb to observe how its time at due north changes from night to night. It reached due north at 10:13 p.m. two Thursdays ago, blah explain this

Friday: April is Global Astronomy Month (GAM). While many astronomy experiences come from looking up, you can also experience astronomy looking down… at pen and paper. GAM has launched an Astropoetry blog and is looking for contributors, hopefully ones that are better than mine above. Even if you’ve never written a poem before, this is your opportunity to express your love for astronomy in a unique way and possibly share it with others. Go to for more poetry.

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

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