Thursday, May 2, 2013
The Ellensburg sky for the week of 5/4/13
Saturday: Jupiter is two fists held upright and at arms length above the west-northwest horizon at 9 p.m.
Sunday: The Eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks tonight and tomorrow morning. But since this meteor shower has a fairly broad peak range, there will be many more meteors than in the typical pre-dawn sky throughout the month. Meteor showers are named after the constellation from which the meteors appear to originate. The meteors appear to come from a point in the constellation Aquarius near the star Eta. This point is about one fist held upright and at arm’s length above the east horizon at 4 a.m. The moon will be new in a few days so it should not interfere with your viewing. You could be rewarded with some bright, fast meteors. The Eta Aquarid meteors slam into the Earth at about 40 miles per second. They often leave a long trail. The Eta Aquarid meteors are small rocks that have broken off Halley’s Comet. For more information about the Eta Aquarids, go to http://meteorshowersonline.com/eta_aquarids.html.
Monday: Mother’s Day is less than a week away. What are you going to get her? Get her a Gem(ma). The star Gemma, also known as Alphekka, is the brightest star in the constellation Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown. Gemma, Latin for jewel is the central gemstone for the crown. It is four fists above due east at 10 p.m.
Tuesday: The bright bluish star Vega is two fists above the northeast horizon at 10 p.m.
Wednesday: This weekend, celebrate Mother’s Day with the big mom of the sky, Virgo. Ancient Greeks and Romans associated this portion of the sky with their own goddess of the harvest, either Demeter (Greeks) or Ceres (Roman). Demeter was the mother of Persephone and Ceres was the mother of Proserpina. According to myth, each of these daughters was abducted causing their mothers great grief. The first star in Virgo rises in the afternoon. Spica, the bright bluish star in the constellation rises at 6:30 and is three fists above the south-southeast horizon at 10 p.m. Saturn is about twice as bright and orange. It is about a fist to the lower left of Spica.
Thursday: Tonight’s moon is new. That means you won’t be able to see it. But that does not mean it doesn’t exist. Contrary to the belief of toddlers and immature politicians, just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. (Note a double negative statement followed by a triple negative statement. I’m not unsorry about that.) Now, back to the science. What would happen to the earth if the moon really didn’t exist? In the summer blockbuster Oblivion, aliens destroy the moon and Tom Cruise survives. But the long-term effects on the earth would be devastating to life as we know it. The moon stabilizes the spin axis of the earth keeping the seasons fairly uniform over time. For more information on what would happen to the earth if the moon were destroyed, go to http://goo.gl/jM1d4. For more information on Thomas Cruise Mapother IV, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Cruise.
Friday: Here is your early evening viewing challenge. At 8:45, Venus is about a half a fist above the west-northwest horizon and a finger width to the right of the young crescent moon.
The positional information in this column about stars and planets is typically accurate for the entire week.