Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 11/2/13

Saturday: Don’t forget to “fall back” tonight. Before you fall back on to your bed, set your clock back one hour to the real time. Daylight savings ends early Sunday morning at 2 a.m. This means one more hour of sky watching at night because the Sun will set one hour earlier. Ben Franklin proposed the idea of “saving daylight” by adjusting our clocks way back in 1784. Daylight savings time was first utilized during World War I as a way to save electricity. After the war, it was abandoned. It was reintroduced during World War II on a year-round basis. From 1945 to 1966, some areas implemented daylight savings and some did not. But, it was not implemented with any uniformity as to when it should start and stop. The Uniform Time Act of 1966 codified the daylight savings rules.

Sunday: Lacerta, the faint lizard constellation, is straight overhead at 9 p.m. It was named by the Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius in 1687 to fill the space between the much brighter and well-defined constellations Pegasus, Andromeda, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, and Cygnus going clockwise from the constellation just south of Lacerta. Chinese know this group of stars as a flying serpent or dragon.

Monday: Jupiter is rising from the northeast horizon at 9 p.m. By 11 p.m., it is two fists above the east horizon.

Tuesday: Venus is about a fist to the left of the crescent moon at 5 p.m. Tomorrow night at this time, Venus will be less than a fist below the moon.

Wednesday: Did you look up Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Antony Hewish based on last week’s Halloween costume suggestion? Jocelyn Bell Burnell is a Northern Irish astrophysicist. As a postdoctoral student, she discovered the first radio pulsar, a super massive rapidly rotating star. Antony Hewish was her supervisor. Hewish and a colleague shared the 1974 Nobel Prize in physics for the discovery while Bell, who made the actual observations, was not listed. Many astronomers criticized this omission, noting that her observation was one of the greatest astronomical discoveries of the twentieth century.

Thursday: While Stonehenge is an ancient burial ground visited by religious people for thousands of years, MIThenge is an 825-foot long hallway on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology visited by the Sun’s rays twice a year.  Every year in November and January, the setting Sun lines up with a narrow window at the end of the long hall and the light shines down to the opposite end. This season’s alignment is from November 10-13. For more information, visit or visit MIT.

Friday: When Napoleon Dynamite danced to the Alphaville song, “Forever Young” at his prom, he didn’t know he might have been learning about the giant asteroid Vesta. According to the latest pictures from the Dawn spacecraft, Vesta is continually stirring up its outermost layer bringing fresh material to the surface. This makes Vesta look “forever young, Vesta wants to be forever young. Vesta wants to live forever, forever, and ever.” Go to for more information. Vesta is visible with binoculars, about midway between Mars and Spica, three fists above the east-southeast horizon at 5:30 a.m. Mars is the bright and reddish point of light four fists above the southeast horizon. NASA built and launched Dawn in 2007 for less than half the cost of a new NFL football stadium. Its mission is to study the early solar system by gathering data from two asteroids that have remained relatively unchanged from their formation.

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

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