Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 9/7/13

Saturday: Are you an early morning riser? If so, get up at 5 a.m. tomorrow morning and look two fists held upright and at arm’s length above the east horizon. Mars is in the Beehive Cluster, an open cluster of about 600 stars, all about 600 light-years from Earth. If you were standing on Mars, the Beehive cluster would not look any different because being “in” a celestial grouping just means being in line with that grouping as viewed from Earth. But if you were standing next to the Mars Curiosity Rover on August 17, you would have seen Mars’ moon Phobos eclipse the Sun. Since Mars tickets are difficult to acquire, NASA made a short video for you http://goo.gl/79sr59.

Sunday: Geometry review, part 4. Previously in this column, we have reviewed triangles. You’re feeling pretty confident about the definition of a triangle, aren’t you? But do you know what an obtuse triangle is? At 8 p.m., the moon, Venus, and Spica will make a small obtuse triangle about a half a fist above the west-southwest horizon. A triangle where one of the interior angles is greater that 90 degrees is called obtuse.

Monday: Science is Central! This week, faculty, staff, and students in the College of the Sciences at CWU will kick off the start of the academic year by hosting a series of evening science lectures and demonstrations geared for all ages. All events are taking place on the CWU Ellensburg campus and all are free. The series kicks off tonight with CWU professor, astronomy club advisor and columnist extraordinaire Bruce Palmquist at 7:00 – 8:00 pm in Lind Hall 215 on the CWU campus. He’ll be doing and teaching demonstrations about electricity and magnetism. They’ll make you say, “Wow”, Ohhh”, and “Ahhh”. Go to http://www.cwu.edu/newmap.html for a map of campus. Parking is free after 4:30 p.m. For more information about the week’s events, go to http://www.cwu.edu/cesme/upcoming-events.

Tuesday: In most parts of the country, a mixture of tasty carbon-based material and healthy minerals is called a casserole. In Minnesota, it is called a hot dish. (Uffdah, you betcha!) In space, it is called a supergiant. Antares, a supergiant in the constellation Scorpius, is forging lighter elements into carbon, oxygen, silicon, and iron in its core. It is on the main course table one fist above the southwest horizon at 7:30. Make sure it cools off before you take a bite.

Wednesday: Saturn is one fist above the southwest horizon at 8 p.m. It is to the upper left of the much brighter Venus.

Thursday: In 1987, the rock group Def Leppard sang “Pour some sugar on me, in the name of love. Pour some sugar on me, come on fire me up”. In 2012, some European astronomers “found some sugar near stars, they were very young. Found some sugar near stars, out where planets formed.” Astronomers observed molecules of glycolaldehyde, a simple form of sugar, in the disk of gas and dust orbiting young binary stars. This is the first time astronomers have found this simple sugar so close to a star indicating that organic molecules can be found in planet-forming regions of stars. For more information, go to http://goo.gl/tfwy1.

Friday: Did you know that Friday the 13th is not a lucky day? “Beating the odds” is one definition of luck. Because of the pattern of the Gregorian calendar, Friday is the most common day of the week to be the 13th day of the month. Thus, when you encounter a Friday the 13th, you are not beating the odds because Friday is the most likely 13th day. The least likely day? A tie between Thursday and Saturday.

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

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