Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 4/13/13

Saturday: Do you like clusters? Candy clusters? Data clusters? The German band Cluster? Tonight, the moon shows that it likes star clusters because it is between two of them at 9 p.m. The V-shaped Hyades cluster is less than a half a fist held out at arms length to the left of the moon and the more compact Pleiades is a little more than a half a fist to the right of the moon. Containing over 300 stars, the Hyades cluster is about 150 light years away and 625 million years old. The Pleiades Cluster has over 1000 stars and much younger. Compared to our 5 billion year old Sun, the 100 million year age of the Pleiades is infant-like.

Sunday: Sure Jupiter is the brightest point of light in the night sky this evening. But did you know you can also see it during the day? Today is a good day to try. You’ll need binoculars and the moon. First, find the waxing crescent moon five fists above the southeast horizon at 2 p.m. Aim your binoculars so the moon is near the bottom of your field of view. Jupiter will be in about the middle of your field of view. If the sky is completely cloud-free and steady, you may be able to see Jupiter with the naked eye. Hold two fingers out at arm’s length. Rotate them sideways and place them right above the moon. Jupiter will be right above your fingers. For more information about other celestial objects visible during the day, go to

Monday: The nighttime stars take little more than an instant to rise. The Moon takers about two minutes to rise. That’s absolutely speedy compared to the constellation Virgo which takes four hours to rise. The first star in Virgo rises at 4:30 in the afternoon today. Spica, the brightest star in the constellation, rises at 7:30. By 9 p.m., Spica is a fist and a half above the southeast horizon.

Tuesday: The Boys of Summer have started their season. The stars of winter are ending theirs. At 10 p.m., four of the brightest wintertime stars have either set or will soon be setting. Sirius is about a half a fist above the west-southwest horizon. Rigel has set. The red giant Betelgeuse is a fist and a half above the west horizon. And Aldebaran is a fist above the west-northwest horizon.

Wednesday: The Lyrid meteor shower peaks next week. But there will be increased meteor activity for the next two weeks in the vicinity of the constellation Lyre. The meteors appear to come from a point to the right of the bright bluish star Vega in the constellation Lyra the lyre. This point is about three fists above the east-northeast horizon at midnight and close to straight overhead near dawn.

Thursday: Tonight’s first quarter moon is in the constellation Cancer the crab. At 10 p.m., the Beehive cluster is less than a fist above the moon. (See, I told you the moon liked star clusters.) The Beehive cluster, also called Praesepe, is an open star cluster of about 600 stars, all about 600 light years from Earth.

Friday: Saturn is less than one fist above the west-southwest horizon at 6 a.m.

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

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