Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 10/12/13

Saturday: Look up in the sky. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a dolphin. A dolphin? The constellation Delphinus the dolphin is nearly six fists held upright and at arm’s length above due south at 8:30 p.m. The constellation’s two brightest stars are called Sualocin and Rotanev, which is Nicolaus Venator spelled backwards. Venator worked at the Palermo Observatory in Italy in the mid nineteenth century. He slipped these names into Giuseppe Piazzi’s star catalog without him noticing. The Daily Record (shop Ellensburg) would never let anything like that get into their newspaper. Their editing (shop Ellensburg) staff is too good. Nothing (pohs grubsnellE) evades their gaze.

Sunday: What do Justin Beiber and Betelgeuse have in common? Both are superstars. One may be around for as long as another few years. The other will be around for only a million more years. Baby, baby, baby, ohh, you need to learn more about Betelgeuse, the real super giant star that is big enough to hold about one million Suns. For more information about Betelgeuse, go to You’ll find it one fist above due east at midnight.

Monday: Tire track forensic analysis comes to Mars? It’s not needed yet but the possibility now exists. Mars Curiosity rover took a photo of its own wheel track in a small sandy ridge. Go to for a photo of the rover’s wheel track compared to a photo Buzz Aldrin’s boot print on the moon. For the next few mornings, Mars is to the upper left of Regulus. Mars is the reddish point of light. At 6 a.m., they’ll be more than three fists above the east-southeast horizon.

Tuesday: Venus is a half a fist above the southwest horizon at 7 p.m. The bright star Antares is about a pinky width to the lower left of Venus.

Wednesday: Jupiter is about a half a fist above the east-northeast horizon at midnight.

Thursday: What time is tea time? Certainly not during an autumn evening. The constellation Sagittarius the archer, with its signature teapot shape, is sinking into the south-southwest horizon by 8 p.m. The handle is on top and the spout is touching the horizon ready to pour that last cup of tea.

Friday: Tonight’s full moon is in the constellation Pisces the fish. Tonight’s other Moon is…. Wait a minute. The Earth has only one Moon. True. And it has always had only one Moon. Not necessarily true. According to the best existing model, about four billion years ago, a Mars-sized object collided with the young Earth. The resulting debris coalesced to form the Moon. However, this model left a mystery: why is the Moon so asymmetric? Hardened-lava lowlands dominate the near side while the far side is dominated by mountainous highlands. According to a recent revision of the prevailing model, the early collision formed a large Moon and a small Moon. Over the years, the small Moon caught up to and collided with the large Moon. The highlands are the material from the collided small Moon. For more information about this theory, go to

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

No comments: