Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 8/10/13

Saturday: The Perseid meteor shower hits its peak late for the next few nights. The meteors appear to come from a point just below the W of the constellation Cassiopeia. This point is about two and a half fists held upright and at arm’s length above the northeast horizon at 11 p.m. By dawn, this point is about seven fists above the northeast horizon. If you fall asleep or forget to set your alarm, you will be able to observe this shower from about 11 p.m. to dawn for the next three nights in about the same location in the sky. The Perseid shower is one of the longest lasting showers. With dark skies, you can see up to 100 meteors per hour in the late night and early morning hours all week. This is a good year for viewing because the moon will have set before the late night and early morning hours. As your Mother might say, dress warm and sit in a comfortable chair for maximum enjoyment. These meteors are sand to pea-sized bits of rock that fell off of Comet Swift-Tuttle. They are traveling about 40 miles per second as they collide with the Earth and burn up in the atmosphere. For more tips about meteor watching, go to

Sunday: Many big city dwellers never see the milky white, nearly continuous band of stars known as the Milky Way. As cities grow and add more lights, it has become harder to see the bulk of the Milky Way galaxy, our home in the universe. But, there are two easy ways to see the Milky Way. The first way is to look in the mirror. You are part of the Milky Way. The second way is to look from due north through the point straight overhead (called the zenith) to due south from 10:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. for the next two weeks. This is the time of year when the Milky Way is highest in the sky and away from the city lights on the horizon.

Monday: Saturn is a half a fist above the moon at 9 p.m. Venus is a half a fist above the west horizon at this time.

Tuesday: Arcturus is two and a half fists above due west at 11 p.m. This star, whose name means bear watcher, is the brightest in the sky’s northern hemisphere. It follows Ursa Major, the Great Bear, around the North Star. Arcturus is the closest giant star to Earth and is one of the few stars whose diameter can be measured directly.

Wednesday: The Gemini twins are crowded for the next couple of weeks. The planets Jupiter and Mars are in line with the constellation. Jupiter will be spending the next few weeks between the brothers. (Isn’t that cozy.) Mars is just below the constellation and moving farther away by the day. At 5 a.m., Mars is one and a half fists above the east-northeast horizon and the very bright Jupiter is nearly two and a half fists above the east horizon. The “twin” stars of Pollux and Castor are about a fist to the left of the planets.

Thursday: Antares is a fist to the lower right of the moon at 10 p.m.

Friday: It’s time for a new moon haiku.
Hubble image shows
Neptune has a small new moon.
Now there are fourteen.
For more information about this discovery, go to

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

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