Friday, February 7, 2014
The Ellenburg sky for the week of 2/8/14
Saturday: The universe contains everything from gigantic galaxy clusters to tiny parts of atoms so it is difficult to visualize all of it on the same scale. Cary and Michael Huang have created an interactive scale model of the universe which allows you to “slide” from a vantage point outside the known universe down to the smallest things ever theorized. To take this trip, go to http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap140112.html.
Sunday: Saturn is three fists held upright and at arm’s length above the south horizon at 6:30 a.m.
Monday: At 10 p.m., Jupiter is about a half a fist above the moon, high in the southern sky. A little later, Mars makes its way into the evening sky, showing up just above the east-southeast horizon at 11 p.m.
Tuesday: This morning, Venus at its brightest for the current viewing cycle. It is one and a half fists above the southeast horizon at 7 a.m. Even though this is just a few minutes before sunrise, Venus is bright enough to see in the highly illuminated sky.
Wednesday: Winter is a good time to see the thick band of the Milky Way galaxy. It arches high in the high in the early evening starting in the southeast by Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. Climbing from Sirius through the "horns" of Taurus high overhead, it drops down toward M-shaped Cassiopeia in the north and the tail of Cygnus, the swan, in the northwest.
Thursday: Do you have a date for Valentine’s Day? Of course you do. You’ve been planning for weeks. But have you been planning for the equally important Valentine’s Day Eve? I didn’t think so. Well, the Central Washington University Astronomy Club has got you covered. They are doing planetarium shows on the stage of the Hertz Hall auditorium on the CWU campus tonight starting at 6 p.m. For more information, visit the club’s Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/CWUAC.
Friday: According to Greek mythology, the beautiful princess Andromeda was chained to a rock next to the ocean. Cetus the sea monster was about to devour her in order to punish her family. It seemed that all was lost. But, along came the great warrior Perseus, fresh off his defeat of the evil Gorgon, Medusa. The only similarity between Andromeda and Medusa was that Andromeda caused people to stand still and stare at her beauty while Medusa turned people to stone because of her ugliness. (And, you thought you looked bad in the morning.) Even though Perseus’ standing as the son of King Zeus and the slayer of Medusa was probably enough to win Andromeda under normal circumstances, Andromeda’s impending death-by-sea-monster was not a normal circumstance. So, Perseus drove his sword into the sea monsters neck and killed it. In a little known addendum to the story, Perseus carved “Percy (heart symbol) Andi” in the rock, thus originating the use of the heart symbol as a substitute for the word “love”.
You can find these lovers in the sky this Valentine’s Day. Just remember it is rude to stare – and you never know when you might turn to stone. First, find the Great Square of Pegasus at 7 p.m. between one and a half and three and a half fists above the west horizon. The lowest star in Andromeda is the top star in the square. This represents Andromeda’s head. Perseus is at her feet, nearly straight overhead. Mirphak, the brightest star in Perseus, is about eight fists above the west horizon. Perseus’ body is represented by the line of stars to the left and right of Mirphak.
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.