Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 1/25/14

Saturday: Draco Malfoy makes an appearance in all seven books of the Harry Potter series. Perhaps you’ve heard of these. But, the constellation Draco the dragon makes an appearance in the sky every night. It is a circumpolar constellation as viewed from Ellensburg meaning it never goes below the horizon. The head of the dragon is one fist held upright and at arm’s length above due north at 9:30 p.m. Eltanin, the brightest star in the constellation, is at the lower left-hand corner of the trapezoid-shaped head of Draco.

Sunday: Mercury is about one fist above the west-southwest horizon at 5:30 p.m. Your homework assignment is to try to find it in the sky this week.

Monday: At 7 a.m., Saturn is two and a half fists above due south and Mars, the reddish planet, is three fists above the southwest horizon and a half a fist above the bluish-white star Spica.

Tuesday: Venus is about a fist to the left of a very “old” crescent moon low in the southeast sky at 7 a.m. The age of the moon is defined as how many days the visible moon is past new. The new moon is zero days old. A waxing crescent is one to six days old. A full moon is about 14 days old. This morning’s moon is 27 days old meaning it will be new again in two days.

Wednesday: Jupiter is five fists above the southeast horizon at 8 p.m.

Thursday: Let’s review three important sets of three cats. There’s Josie, Valerie, and Melody of Josie and the Pussycats. Felix, Tom, and Sylvester from old time cartoons. And, if you want to get away from the mind-numbing effects of television, there’s Leo the lion, Leo Minor, and Lynx in the night sky. Leo is by far the most prominent of these three constellations. Its brightest star called Regulus is nearly four fists above the east-southeast horizon at 11 p.m. The backwards question mark-shaped head of Leo is above Regulus and the trapezoid-shaped body is to the left of it. Leo Minor consists of a few dim stars right above Leo. Pretty wimpy. The long dim constellation spans from just above Leo Minor to nearly straight overhead. You and fellow stargazers won’t need to wear a long tail or ears for hats to enjoy these stellar cats.

Friday: Did you do your homework assignment from Sunday? What. Your dog ate it? No, your dog did not eat the planet Mercury. If you have been having trouble, tonight is your lucky night. At 5:30, Mercury is about a half a fist to the left of a very “young”, one day old crescent moon. You DO remember how to determine the age of the moon, don’t you? The moon was new a little over a day ago so this evening’s moon is 1.3 days old low in the west-southwest sky.

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

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