Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 9/6/14

Saturday: Mars and Saturn are each about a fist and a half held upright and at arm’s length above the southwest horizon at 8 p.m. They are so interesting to look at. If only there was an opportunity for you to see them through a telescope….

Sunday: Science is Central! This week, faculty, staff, and students in the College of the Sciences at CWU will kick off the start of the academic year by hosting a series of evening science lectures and presentations geared for all ages. All events are taking place on the CWU Ellensburg campus and all are free. The series kicks off Tuesday night with a tour of the CWU greenhouse from 7:00 to 8:00 pm. The greenhouse is located on the west side of Dean Hall just north of 11th Avenue and D Street. From 8:00 to 9:00 p.m., move to the east side of Dean Hall to observe and learn about the night sky by looking through some of CWU’s telescopes. Go to for a map of campus. Parking is free after 4:30 p.m. For more information about the week’s events, go to

Monday: Shine on, shine on harvest moon, up in the sky. It’s just like a full moon in January, February, June and July. The only difference is that near the Autumnal Equinox (also known as the first day of fall), the full moon rises close to sunset resulting in a full night of light for the harvest. The harvest moon looks more orange than usual when it is near the horizon because of the dust kicked up from the harvest. The dust scatters the white light reflecting off of the Moon resulting in slightly more of the red and orange components of the white light reaching your eyes. Although the Moon has a dull yellow color whenever it is near the horizon owing to light scattering off of dust and atmospheric particles, the effect is more noticeable for the harvest Moon. Tonight’s full moon is also a Super Moon, meaning it is near its closest point to Earth for the month. For more information about the harvest moon, go to

Tuesday: In most parts of the country, a mixture of tasty carbon-based material and healthy minerals is called a casserole. In Minnesota, it is called a hot dish. (Uffdah, you betcha!) In space, it is called a supergiant. Antares, a supergiant in the constellation Scorpius, is forging lighter elements into carbon, oxygen, silicon, and iron in its core. It is on the main course table one fist above the southwest horizon at 7:30. Make sure it cools off before you take a bite.

Wednesday: At 6 a.m., Venus is a half a fist above the east horizon and Jupiter is two and a half fists above due east.

Thursday: In 1987, the rock group Def Leppard sang “Pour some sugar on me, in the name of love. Pour some sugar on me, come on fire me up”. In 2012, some European astronomers “found some sugar near stars, they were very young. Found some sugar near stars, out where planets formed.” Astronomers observed molecules of glycolaldehyde, a simple form of sugar, in the disk of gas and dust orbiting young binary stars. This is the first time astronomers have found this simple sugar so close to a star indicating that organic molecules can be found in planet-forming regions of stars. For more information, go to

Friday: Tonight is date night. You could spend a lot of money on dinner and gift. But there is no guarantee of a reward afterward. By “reward”, of course I mean learning something new. For date night, go to Lind Hall 104 on the CWU campus from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. to learn about volcanoes. For the “reward”, take your date to a dark place, the top of Lind Hall, and cuddle up… with a telescope for a tour of the night sky. Go to for a map of campus. Parking, and learning, is free after 4:30 p.m.

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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