Thursday, November 14, 2013
The Ellensburg sky for the week of 11/16/13
Saturday: The Leonid meteor shower peaks tonight and tomorrow morning. These meteors appear to come from a point in the constellation Leo the lion. This point is about one fist held upright and at arm’s length above the east-northeast horizon at midnight tonight. You can follow this point throughout the night and into the morning, as it will remain about one fist above the bright star Regulus. The Leonid meteors are particles from the tail of Comet Tempel-Tuttle, a comet discovered by Ernst Tempel and Horace Parnell Tuttle around January 1, 1866. Go to http://goo.gl/OPP6D to see a picture of Comet Tempel-Tuttle. As your Mother might say, dress warm and sit in a comfortable chair for maximum enjoyment. Even if there are only a dozen meteors visible per hour, you’ll want to enjoy it.
Sunday: Humm. Early Sunday morning choices. Roll out of bed just before church. Or get up early to see Comet ISON. The comet, discovered in 2012, brightened significantly last week and is approaching naked eye status in the early morning sky. This morning at 6 a.m., ISON will be about a finger width above the bright star Spica, a fist and a half above the southeast horizon. Tomorrow morning at 6 a.m., ISON will be just below Spica, heading towards its closest approach to the Sun on November 28. By early December, Comet ISON should be visible in the early evening sky. For updates on Comet ISON’s location and activity, go to http://www.spaceweather.com/. By the way, ISON stands for International Scientific Optical Network, a series of telescopes in 11 countries. And, yes, you should get up early to see ISON. Use binoculars to increase your chances.
Monday: When you think of space, the first image that comes to mind is a few large, massive bodies surrounded by a lot of empty space. After all, it is called “outer space”, not “outer stuff”. But that so-called empty space is filled with powerful radiation and high-speed sub-microscopic particles. Much of this is dangerous to life. However, many planets, including Earth, have a shield against radiation and particles called a magnetic field. Jupiter’s magnetic field is the strongest of all the planets. Find Jupiter one fist above the east-northeast horizon at 9 p.m. For more information about magnetic fields, go to http://goo.gl/OYShj.
Tuesday: Venus is one fist above the south-southwest horizon at 5 p.m.
Wednesday: Sunday: Most constellations don’t look like the object their name refers to. Most constellations don’t have such a simple to object to emulate as Triangulum. As you probably guessed, Triangulum is shaped like a princess. Wait…. Just a second…. I read my book wrong. Triangulum is shaped like a thin isosceles triangle. Mothallah is the only named star in the constellation. In Latin this star is called Caput Trianguli, the head of the triangle. Triangulum is seven fists held upright and at arm’s length above the south horizon at 9 p.m. It is pointing down and to the right with Mothallah being the southernmost star at this time of night. The Triangulum Galaxy can be seen with binoculars about a half a fist to the right of Mothallah.
Thursday: You know winter is coming when Orion is visible in the evening sky. It is about a fist above the east-southeast horizon at 9 p.m.
Friday: The Nature of Night event takes place tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Science Building on the CWU campus. There will be planetarium shows, fun nighttime projects, telescopes, animals, cookies and much more. Go to http://www.cwu.edu/cesme/nature-night for more information.
The positional information in this column about stars and planets is typically accurate for the entire week. For up to date information about the night sky, go to https://nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov/planner.cfm.