Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 3/29/14

Saturday: The Milky Way is pretty easy to spot on the early spring sky. Just look up. Everything you see in the sky, including that bird that just startled you, is in the Milky Way. But, even the path of densely packed stars in the plane of our galaxy that look like a river of milk is easy to find. Look due south at 9 p.m. Follow the fuzzy path just to the left of the bright star Sirius two fists held upright and at arm’s length above the horizon, to the right of Jupiter six fists above the southwest horizon, through Capella six fists above the west horizon, through W-shaped Cassiopeia, and down to due north.

Sunday: After a long journey through space, there is nothing will quench your thirst better than a few drops of refreshing Mars water. Wait! Is this an April Fool’s Day joke? No. In 2010, after analyzing photos taken by the Mars Phoenix Lander, a group of astronomers discovered what they interpreted as drops of very salty liquid water on one of the Lander’s legs. But we are not going to travel 18 months to Mars just to lick a few drops of water off a metal leg. We want waterfront property if we are going all that way.  The high-resolution camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has taken images of dark rivulets that form, grow, and fade in the Martian southern hemisphere. Even though Mars is very cold, this liquid could contain enough salt to lower its freezing point by more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Mars is one and a half fists above the east-southeast horizon at 10 p.m. Read all about the water at

Monday: Orion is getting lower and lower in the nighttime sky. Its second brightest star, Betelgeuse, is only two fists above the west-southwest horizon at 11 p.m.

Tuesday: On Saturday, about 500 people will be in town to run a marathon. As JJ from Good Times would say, “That’s Dy-no-mite!” If you have not trained, you’re not ready. Instead, satisfy that marathon craving by attending a virtual Messier Marathon. Charles Messier (pronounced messy a) was an 18th century French astronomer best known for his catalog of 110 nebulae and star clusters. Amateur astronomers love to find as many of these as they can in one night. During the online Messier Marathon, you’ll see the images broadcast on the Internet. The fun starts this morning at 11 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time (when astronomers on the nighttime side of Earth point their telescopes towards interesting celestial objects. For more information, go to

Wednesday: Saturn is barely creeping into the pre-midnight sky. It is a half a fist above the east-southeast horizon at 11:30 p.m.

Thursday: The bright star Arcturus is three fists above the east horizon at 10 p.m.

Friday: You need to get up early tomorrow to cheer on your favorite runners at the Yakima River Canyon Marathon tomorrow at 8 a.m. on Canyon Road just south of Berry Road. So why not get a little viewing in? There is a trio of bright planets visible at 6 a.m. Venus is one fist above the east-southeast horizon. Saturn is two fists above the southwest horizon. Mars is one fist above the west-southwest horizon.

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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